We are in a global pandemic. It is a biological war. War always creates new winners and losers. Everyone, including me, wants some guarantees—that we will have safety, belonging, and food. But the concept of stability and predictability is a creation of modern governments (guaranteed healthcare, guaranteed income in the form of Social Security, etc.) in the last one hundred years. Historically, that has not been the case.

I had a question from an individual who asked me about the impact of systems on people. I said that it is important to note that systems are always amoral—they are only as moral and strong as the people in them. Systems become immoral when one or both of two things happen: (1) They are deliberately created to either benefit or harm a person or group of people, or (2) they had unintended consequences no one anticipated.

The story is told in India of an attempt to rid an area of cobras. The government paid for the skins of dead cobras. Then they found out that a group of people were raising cobras and killing them so that they could get the money for the skins. The government then decided not to pay for cobra skins. The people who had been raising the cobras for the money from the skins could no longer afford the feeding of cobras. So they let all the cobras free. This created even more cobras. Unintended consequences.

I know an African-American man whose grandfather was shot and killed in the 1960s on his own porch because he was running for a county commissioner seat. The shooting was never investigated, and no one was charged with murder. Deliberate creation of a system to harm/benefit.

It is very tempting to totally abdicate personal responsibility in this pandemic and blame the system. But at the end of the day, part of how each of us survives will depend upon individual actions—the thinking that we do and the relationships we have/create.

Do resources (financial, spiritual, emotional, physical, mental, support systems) and systems matter? Absolutely. But only if they can outlast the siege.

Survival always boils down to two things: food/water and relationships. A person can live without shelter but not without food/water for a prolonged amount of time. Without relationships of any kind, it is almost impossible to continue to get food/water. In the follow-up research on Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, they compared individuals who survived the hurricane in high-poverty neighborhoods with those in the same neighborhood who did not survive well. The difference was not money but social capital—relationships. No person is an island.

It will be how we work together to survive that will determine the outcome.