Isabel Villegas is a senior studying Politics & International Relations and Spanish

(This post is the next in Readings in Reconciliation.  Click to learn more about the segment and the series, From the Field.)

COVID-19 has existed for only two years, yet has already changed the world insurmountably. The novel virus has disrupted global markets, shaken political institutions, and transformed social structures. Certainly, no country will ever be quite the same in the aftermath of the pandemic. Assessing this permanently-altered state of the international system, journalist Fareed Zakaria penned a list of insights to navigate this new environment in his book, Ten Lessons for a Post-Pandemic World. Although in some ways the piece feels like it may have been written prematurely, the book as a whole does an excellent job at raising awareness of some of the world’s most pressing issues, in order to help humanity discern their collective steps
moving forward.

Perhaps one of the most significant and critical takeaways from Zakaria’s book is the fact that, in this pandemic era, the world has — and will only continue to — change at a rapid pace. Notes Zakaria, “human beings have been developing their societies … at unprecedented speed. It is as
if we have built the fastest race car ever and are driving it through unknown, unmarked terrain” (28). Advances in technology, dynamic political relationships, and even environmental transformations are somewhat inevitable at this point in human history. It is now up to
individuals and societies to make the decision of whether or not they will prepare accordingly. Zakaria concludes his race car metaphor, stating, “it’s time to install [airbags] and buy some insurance. And above all, it’s time to buckle up” (28). Most individuals have some degree of wariness when it comes to change and the upheaval that it has the potential to bring, but Zakaria aptly warns that it is not only impossible but also unwise to avoid it.

Overall, Zakaria’s insights are astute and well-informed, but one cannot help but occasionally wonder if his reflections come too early. His book was only published in 2020, the very same year that the global pandemic began. One could argue that not enough time has passed
between the circumstances he describes and his analysis of them. History and lived experience alone could demonstrate that clarity and understanding of a situation increases and improves with the passing of time. In some ways, Zakaria’s predictions about the state of the world moving
forward are at best mere speculations. And while his reasonings are thoroughly supported by data and statistics, if the pandemic era has demonstrated anything it is that the future is unpredictable. As Zakaria even admits himself in his book, “nothing is written” (246).
The lessons he presents surely ought to be appreciated, but one also should take them with a grain of salt.

Zakaria’s book has certain implications for students of politics as well. For young people interested in the workings of government or global affairs, the lessons found in this book provide useful knowledge on new realities of the world. Phenomena such as the rise in artificial
intelligence, climate change, and strife between the United States and China all ought to be understood if one hopes to truly make positive contributions to the field of politics. More importantly though, Zakaria is honest in his assessment of these trends, but never in a way that
may cause students to feel discouraged. Rather, he charges his audience to take the reins of their collective destiny, and steer it in a direction that promotes the common good. The effects of the pandemic can never be undone, but that is not to say that individuals must sit idly by or refuse to adapt to circumstances. The future is in the hands of those who wish to impact it, which is ultimately a truth that should inspire faith, hope, and purposeful action.


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