The New (Ab)Normal

Unaltered photo by
Vladislav Grubman / CC BY-SA (

Author Mary Higgins Clark once noted there are only three places in the world that begins with the article “The” – The Hague, The Vatican, and The Bronx (also known as Da Bronx). My journey began in that colorful, closely-knit bedroom borough north of Manhattan comprised mostly of lower/middle and middle class people from various ethnic backgrounds, spread among numerous apartment houses and single-family homes. I can recall the sights, sounds, and smells of my native land, like the elongated siren of the old black and green police cars, or the local buses spewing smoke as they departed from their stops. No matter where I go, they stay synonymous with a place called home.

Today, New York is silent. Silence is the complete absence of sound. The novel coronavirus has brought about a deafening silence as we shelter-in-place. But more disturbingly, it has silenced daily life in this bustling city

In New York City, the sidewalks are almost as empty as the streets. Among the few sounds we hear are in the morning, when there is a change of shifts at the city’s hospitals, and at the police and fire stations. But at 7:00PM, the silence is broken with gratitude, as people everywhere open their windows to bang pots and pans in recognition of these same brave people who are giving so much to help.

The quiet in New York is exacerbated by the face masks we wear. The masks cover our faces so we don’t pass on the virus. They also conceal from view the sheer terror we are experiencing. The mask, however, is especially troubling when the behavior of some leaders muffles the message when being less than truthful.

Some years back I visited Consumer Reports headquarters and learned about something called anechoic chamber. It is a place that completely absorbs reflections of sound. It is a place so quiet that you can hear your heart, lungs, stomach, and even the blood coursing through your veins. All sound is traveling away from the source.

At a time when there is so much pain and suffering, it is important for leaders to listen to their inner voice. In the silence of our personal anechoic chamber we can hear the deep moaning in the world, and better reflect on ways to address what’s needed. Our humanity depends upon it.

Keith Darcy is President of Darcy Partners Inc., a boutique consulting firm that works with boards and top executives on a wide variety of complex governance, ethics, compliance, and reputation risk challenges. Website: Darcy.Partners

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