The secret to Asia’s pandemic success

April 9th, 2021

Greetings from Thailand!

Well, the mood in most places these days seems rather dour; here in Thailand we too are in the process of re-locking down in the face of a 'Third Wave', albeit one that is several degrees of magnitude smaller than what's going on in North America and parts of Europe.

Following the government announcement of the latest regulations I was struck by both the resilience and compliance of the people here. There was no debate, no pushback; nearly everyone has since donned their masks, closed what needed to be closed, and generally have just been hunkering down and carrying on as usual.

No doubt some of this is due to the relative success Thailand has had during the pandemic, which has meant more freedom to see friends and do all the things most people in Canada have been quite restricted from doing for ages, but I think it goes deeper than just the recent experience of the past year.

It occurred to me that that success has its roots in the generally more 'collectivist' mindset you find in a number of societies here in Asia, and from that perspective I think there are some broader ideas that are helpful as we try to navigate our way through the situation.

Firstly, as I read somewhere recently, although we’re not all in the same boat, we are all in the same storm, and it's never been more important for us to work together to get through it safely.

The challenge these days is that working together requires trust, and right now we seem to be in an age where distrust in other people, science, the news, etc is more prevalent than ever. However, rather than validating distrust as the mindset of the day, I think we need to choose courage and make a small leap of faith to try and see the best in the intentions of ourselves and others. Only from here we can create a foundation to cooperate successfully.

A good example of that here is the attitude toward mask-wearing, which is not a new development in most of Asia, and has generally always been an 'I wear mine to protect you, you wear yours to protect me' sort of thing. There is an assumed looking out for the well-being of the collective at the core of it, and the much shorter lockdowns and quicker returns to normalcy are the rewards they have reaped for that approach.

I say all this not to spark a wider comparative debate on ideology or social contracts, but to try and find the glimmers of hope and the keys to getting us out of this mess.

The human experience is both an individual and a collective one and sometimes the dichotomy between those experiences requires subjugating one to the other for a while...and I think this is a time that we as individuals must make sacrifices for the sake of the collective.

I salute you for making those sacrifices and putting on a resolute face as we soldier forward. We'll keep putting trip ideas together and hopefully our own little collective can get together sooner rather than later.


P.S. We're in the process of rescheduling a number of our programs from 2020 - you can find the new program for Sicily & Malta in your most recent newsletter, soon to be followed by our Norway and Greek island-hopping trips. More on the way!

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