Will We Learn & Adapt?

April 9, 2020

Given the global coronavirus conundrum Australia is immersed in, I wonder, had we been more diligent in retaining some of ‘our parent’s ways’ our situation may be slightly better? 

Sadly, our society has become complicated, we have taken things for granted and choose the easy or cheapest way. Will we learn from this pandemic or go back to how we were?  

When our ancestors immigrated to Australia they were placed in extreme challenging situations and coped as best they could, with as little as they had, in order to survive. Their ignorance dismissed an indigenous race whose experience could have helped the fledgling settlers. It shows how long it takes for us to understand and learn by our mistakes.   

We were naïve, isolated, protected from global issues and felt safe from the big world out there. But oh how things have changed since I was a young girl. 

As I reflect I realise how our mothers and fathers had many things right. They practiced the basics, their importance now overlooked. Our mothers made our own clothes, we all grew fruit and vegetables, had chook pens, consumed local produce, cooked wholesome tasty dishes, sliced off thick wedges of warm cake as it came out of the oven. We dined at the table and talked. 

I remember when we upgraded from a hot copper washer with its manually cranked wringer that squeezed the water out of our clothes, to a fully automatic top load washing machine. Our clothes were hung outside on the Hills Hoist. I still dry all my washing outside on a clothes line. I also iron my linen much to the laughter of my friends.

If we had a cold, mum would apply Vicks vapour rub on our chests and sit us outside in the sunshine. Our blankets and pillows were also left out to destroy the bugs. I continue this practice to this very day. 

When I listen to media broadcasts advising people on hygiene and other practices I think, this is nothing new, this is what our parents taught us, so what has happened to our society?

Have we become complacent, expectations too high and falsely protected by modernisation across all spectrums of living? Packaged food, vaccines, antibiotics, electronic computerised equipment, an ‘everything can be replaced or disposed of’ attitude. Recycling shouldn’t be a trendy concept, but it is. What happened to the old ways of reuse wherever possible to avoid waste? 

Maybe we need to reflect on what it was like then, adopt some of the old habits now and embrace the learnings from our mistakes.  

The following is my rudimentary sketch of the good and the bad of Then and Now:  

Australia  Geographically isolated, generally less exposed to global issues, & pandemics, lived relatively free from the rest of the world’s problems.  Integrated in global issues, higher participation in global wars, high level of international travel. Exposed politically, financially and socially, never to be the same. 
Government  Lacked transparency, hid behind a shroud of secrecy, chose what to tell the public.   Australians embrace the democratic process enforcing more public awareness, increased transparency and accountability. Public in a position to scrutinise and challenge our government
Media There was no social media as we know it, books, newspapers, letters & radio was our main source of information. People went about their lives with what they were given.      Social media dominates, contributes to high rate of media hype, spreads global information from uncontrolled sources. Everyone is an expert. Knee jerk reactions high & visible. Benefits; social connect remotely, information source, avenue for retailers. 
Medical  Research was conducted by the struggling minority, few drugs available for diseases, death rates high, self-care was essential to survive.  Scientists had more input, respected.

Disabled & disadvantaged ostracised. 

Vast array of drugs available on demand. People have become complacent. Misbelief that doctors can provide a quick fix for everything. Finance v’s Science, a debate about government priorities.

Anti-discrimination laws implemented, increased public empathy. Better health facilities. Public awakening on the vitality of  research.

Individual hygiene Hygiene basics practised e.g. always wash hands before eating, after going to the toilet. No kissing on the lips, avoided sick people due to unknowns.  Unbelievably many have chosen to be ignorant of the significance of cleanliness and hygienic practices. We have to be publicly reminded!  
Sunshine Sunshine was used to assist healing with viruses. 

Home care and hospital patients placed outside in sunshine daily. 

Bed linen was left out in the sun, there were no clothes dryers. Hot irons assisted in destroying bacteria.

Limited exposure to sunshine due to realistic fears of melanoma. Consequences; a dramatic increase in Vitamin D deficiency due to lack of vital sunshine absorption has become and a health issue. 

Clothes dryers can help kill germs, but only after washing, as can ironing. 

Food Locally grown, basic stable diets, homemade dishes the norm. Created great dishes from leftovers. 

Packaged foods a treat but no legal controls nor labelling over manufacturers ingredients. 

Locally grown food genetically modified, home-grown a rarity. Packaged foods include ingredient labelling.  Imported foods from uncontrolled global environments. Consumers don’t scrutinise the wording. Many ingredients potentially unhealthy. Taken us centuries to enforce content labelling.  

Maybe our crisis is nature’s way of delivering a warning to the world, a reminder that we are vulnerable and susceptible to destroying our species. Books have been written by authors with foresight, unfortunately we have all been too busy to listen.   

When I stare into our unknown universe I am perpetually amazed, in awe of our existence. I live in hope that when we get to the other side of all this, people will be more mindful (as with COVID-19), adapt and understand why the things we have become accustomed to, will be subjected to change.

It’s how life is; history has taught us this. It will be a matter of relearning, readjustment, then getting on with it as our ancestors did.    

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