It’s only human nature, I suppose. We see our own circumstances and fail to appreciate how others have equally (or perhaps more) complexity to juggle. I’m thinking ahead to work on Monday. The week before the holiday break the most popular question posed to me in my work emails was, “Why haven’t I received my copies of X yet?” It’s a fair question. What it betrays, however, is a lack of comprehension of just how complicated a business publishing is. I should be flattered that we make it look so easy! To begin with, publishing, and printing, are nonessential businesses. Most of them may be up and running at, at least partial capacity, but the flow of materials to printers didn’t stop just because a pandemic hit. It simply did what backlogs always do—it piled up.
Publishers have very intricate and, for the most part, efficient operations. If a blockage occurs at any point—even the end point—other things back up. Have you ever seen a toilet overflow? I have, and it’s not a pretty sight. Add to that the fact that many academics, unable to travel or do their other privileged activities, decided to finish up their books and send them in early. Everybody should be happy, right? Have you ever overeaten? The happiness lasts only until your brain catches up with what your body has done. I can’t speak for all publishers, but this combination of more input of material than expected and the inability to *ahem* process it has stressed the system. Schedules exist for a reason.
Covid-19 has affected everything. And continues to do so. As we live through this pandemic we find our coping mechanisms. Once we reach a level of uneasy symbiosis with our situation we stop thinking about how others might be dealing with it. I think of those who’ve been out of work for months now and who’ve been evicted from homes because of what the wealthy can call force majeure and hire lawyers to argue. Indeed, the coronavirus outbreak is the very definition of force majeure and the response we all ought to have is compassion and kindness to one another. It’s not easy to think of other people before meeting our own needs—it’s not human nature. Species that learn cooperative, altruistic behavior, however, are those that thrive. As we say goodbye to a year of willful government inaction—the Trump administration knew of the danger well before it hit, but doesn’t believe in science—let’s vow to do what our leaders won’t. Show compassion. Recovery will occur and let’s hope we come out of it better than we went in. This seems a good mantra for the beginning of a new year.
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