My mother was a big fan of two centuries-old Spanish refrains. The first is “No hay mal que por bien no venga,” which loosely translates into “Good things result from bad things (happening.)” And the second is “Querer es poder,” which roughly means, “To want to is to be able to.” Similar to “where there is a will, there is a way.” The idea that we can achieve what we want if we want it bad enough. However, it is the first refrain that I think of when something bad does happen. I almost immediately look for what good will come of it, though more often than not, we cannot see the good until some time has passed, which is what I hope will happen once we are passed the pandemic.
Currently, and for the past seven months, there has been no shortage of conjectures, assumptions, and theories of what will the new “normal” be or what we have learned or how society and the world will look like afterward. Since we are still in the middle of it all, we can only surmise what the changes might be, but that is unsatisfactory to me; the waiting part to see what society, politicians, and various communities will do afterward. It feels too passive and counterproductive. The idea of waiting to follow like sheep, the new trend, or societal norms does not seem like the best approach, which is why the second refrain comes in handy. What do I want the outcome of this experience to be? What do I want for my family – especially my 9-year old daughter – in the coming years and decades?
The pandemic, as well as the data and demographics thereof, have brought to light issues that many of us have been aware of and have even repudiated but accepted them, such as poverty, social justice, environmental racism, our assault on nature, lack of education for all, and medical care as a luxury and privilege. The effects of our apathy and acceptance regarding all these issues exacerbated our current situation. Therefore, the good that can come of the pandemic is a peaceful but efficacious social and environmental revolution, a revolution in the sense of significant change.
Because I am a fan of San Francisco and its denizens, I firmly believe that the City is poised to be among the world leaders able to exact the change we need. In the past, San Francisco has taken social and political risks on such issues as a living minimum wage, access to healthcare for all residents, gay marriage, transgender rights, environmental protection measures, and so on.
During these months of the ongoing pandemic, and though still not resolved, City officials, NGOs, politicians, volunteers, and even schools and residents have tried to help, especially since the pandemic showed how we are all in this crisis together. For example, back in February and March, there was great concern that the virus would spread through the City very quickly due to homeless people being exposed to the elements and the inability to social distance in shelters. Fortunately, this did not occur, but it could have and might in the future if we do not get the homeless problem resolved.
Another related issue is the living conditions of service workers in densely populated and expensive Cities, such as San Francisco and New York, where such individuals must live in cramped apartments with several other people. They are unable to social distance in these places but are also unable to practice proper hygiene required to stay healthy and, therefore, can become infected with the virus and transmit it.
So, what does this all mean? Hopefully, as I wrote earlier, San Franciscans can rally once again and use their intelligence, innovativeness, creativity, and empathy to generate the significant change that is currently needed. And I believe this will occur through entrepreneurism, volunteerism, and stewardship. Therefore, stay tuned for more articles on our website that will report, chronicle, and facilitate these changes for the better.
Jorge Romero is an accredited professional in sustainability and a past and current member of various non-profit organizations. He is a principal at PM Workshops, is currently living in Barcelona with his family, but has lived in San Francisco in the past and still calls it home.