I love alien invasion movies. I love the cuts to scenes from around the world where we come together as a species regardless of race, religion, ideology, and nationality, to confront a common enemy. The poor Eiffel Tower, pyramids, Golden Gate Bridge, Sydney Opera House are the first to go. If you find yourself in an Alien Apocalypse movie, steer clear of major landmarks. But when they are shown exploding, they aren’t Egypt’s pyramids, or France’s Eiffel Tower, they are ours. Faced with human extinction, suddenly all that divides us fades away and what connects us is all that matters.
I’ve always felt like peace on earth was just one good alien invasion away.
Is COVID-19 our common foe, our Independence Day?
It is a new-to-us, alien invader, spreading death and disruption across the planet. However, in many ways we’re not becoming more connected as a planet but less. Borders are closed, as if a microscopic virus cares about a line on a map, or could be turned away by a customs agent.
The virus becomes known as a Chinese virus as if placing blame does anything to fight it.
We watch news from crowded hospitals in Italy. Hear the stories delivered through tears from doctors on the front lines. And we still don’t see it as a human problem. China wasn’t ready for the invasion, neither was Italy. We’ll be fine.
And then the invasion arrives on our shores, and any fantasies of our exceptionalism fade away. Even then, as it nears, we look at it is a city or state problem. A New York problem. A Seattle problem. Shut the borders! Point fingers! Every country, every state, every county, every city for itself.
That might be a little too jaded. There are people volunteering for studies in which they will be infected with COVID-19 in hopes of finding a way to treat it or immunize against it. There are planes full of medical professionals flying into the frontlines. Hell, any nurse or doctor or anyone who works in a hospital showing up for work is a hero.
But, overall, this isn’t the great coming together I imagine in alien movies.
A Global & Local Challenge
I get it. The closer to home our problems, the harder it is to see beyond them. But this virus is a humbling reminder that the local goes global and the global goes local. We are both global and local citizens, and now more than ever we need to take on both roles.
Yes, we should do our best to support local businesses, but let’s not pretend that getting a pizza delivered to your house is some act of altruism, and tipping 30% makes you a hero. That would be the worst damn alien invasion movie ever.
This is going to be a tough time for everyone, but even more so for the most vulnerable in our own communities and especially those living in developing nations. It’s important to support both local organizations and global organizations that help people living in poverty. In Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh there are 300 hospital beds to serve the 850,000 Rohingya refugees.
My friend Rozy who lives in an informal settlement in Kenya had this to report:
Immediately the government initiated Curfew and everything changed in Kenya… cases of police brutality were witnessed across the country. As per now we are reaching out to the most vulnerable in our communities by providing a package of flour, 1kg sugar,1kg bar soap, and sanitary towels for women. So far we have only managed to reach out to 10 families due to limited resources. If we get such essential things given to at least 50 households, it will be of great importance. We are encouraging them to share the little they receive with at least one neighbor. Because we are foreseeing a total lockdown soon by the government. Most of the people who live in informal settlements are casual laborers who work from hand to mouth so lockdown means no food for their families. I also picked up 4 kids from 3 families for accommodation in my Mom’s house.
If you’d like to help Rozy, email me firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll tell you how.
And from my friend Maruti who lives in an informal settlement in Mumbai (the whole country of India is on lockdown, which means most day laborers can’t work):
We are helping give our community rations. Every shop is on lockdown.
To help Maruti and his community, donate to The OSCAR foundation.
The aliens are here and to be a hero we need to act both locally and globally.
How to fight the Aliens
In my book Where Am I Giving I included Giving Rules, which are more guidelines of how to make the biggest impact with your gifts and talents. I’ve spent about a decade thinking about these topics. So in the age of COVID-19 I thought I would offer some additional Giving Rules/Thoughts:
- Stay home.
- If you’re able, continue to give to organizations and causes you support already. Consider offering them more support because it is a challenging time for all nonprofits.
- Give blood. If you’re able, you should be doing this regularly.
- Consuming isn’t giving. Eat carryout one less time and donate how much you would’ve spent to one of the most effective poverty fighting organizations in the world.
- Volunteer using a unique skill or talent that you have already. 80,000hours.org has a listing of COVID-19 volunteer and job opportunities for a wide range of folks from engineers to coders, researchers to translators, and more.
- Find a volunteer opportunity in your community. Retirees are the backbone of volunteer-supported organizations, and they really need to stay at home. Consider volunteering with or donating to Meals on Wheels in your community.
- Stay in touch with global events. I recommend BBC and NPR’s site Goats & Soda
- Call your parents and grandparents.
- Sign up for a CSA and plant a garden .
- Fly a spaceship into the COVID-19 mothership and blow it up.
I’ve learned that all the most important ways we can give aren’t measurable. Be there for one another and maybe we can give this movie a happy ending.