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IN THE BEGINNING of Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex, a plague has descended on the kingdom of Thebes that ravages crops, livestock and citizens alike. We find Oedipus, king of Thebes, imploring his subjects to stop praying and instead “act as the crisis demands,” to find a cure. The oracle at Delphi informs Oedipus that the “great pestilence” will only be lifted through an act of justice: the previous king’s murderer must be killed or exiled.
Eventually, Oedipus’ quest for justice—and with it, a cure—brings him to the blind prophet Tiresias, who informs him that Oedipus himself is the killer and that his kingdom was founded on incest and patricide. In the end, the king, no longer blind to his own crimes, gouges out his eyes and stumbles from his palace.
While an imperfect analogue for the challenges of COVID-19, Sophocles’ tragedy bears an important lesson for our time: namely, that pandemics reveal the deepest, most entrenched and often least visible injustices of our politics and our society. What’s more, no one is immune to these lessons. From dictators and doctors to schoolteachers and presidents, all are doomed if they remain blind to the revelations of our new reality.
In this edition of Perspectives, the Navigator team sheds some light on that reality and what COVID-19 means for the future of business, issue management and public affairs. We will also look at some of the most important trends in these fields and how they are evolving.
While the pandemic has taken a toll across every industry and walk of life, the response has hardly been even. Certain sectors have proven more agile and less susceptible to the disruptions we all now experience in our daily lives and have cautiously moved to reopen. Others have wildly careened, in the name of economic reward, toward a “back to normal” that surely can no longer exist.
After months of social distancing and shutdown, we emerge to a world which in many ways looks identical to the one we knew before. But looks, after all, can be deceiving and as in Sophocles’ time, the transformative “black swan” is less the pandemic than our response to it.
In the coming weeks, we will release new Perspectives pieces digitally, beginning with a very exciting contribution by Navigator Senior Advisor and former Premier of New Brunswick, Brian Gallant. Brian’s piece examines the drive to rethink the purpose of the corporation and how it will shape business, policy and society. Senior Consultant Jeff Costen has contributed a timely article on the rise of grey media and whether COVID-19 has endowed traditional media outlets with a new relevance.
Some things have not changed. As always, Perspectives will feature interviews with prominent Canadians and Dispatches from our Western and Quebec offices. While the format has evolved to adapt to these times, this edition of Perspectives contains the same level of insight and deep analysis as always, albeit with a new focus. Our hope is as much to arouse new questions as provide answers, and in doing so reveal the opportunities which exist alongside the challenges ahead.