Our ‘Global Winter of Discontent’

Andrew Fletcher Cole
4 min readMay 7, 2020


Jonathan Yeo’s portrait of Kevin Spacey as Richard III

“Now is the winter of our discontent” begins Shakespeare’s Richard III (basically the Sixteen Century version of Game of Thrones). Whether living in the northern or southern hemisphere — all of us are experiencing a ‘global winter of discontent’ as we face down the devastation caused by COVID-19.

However, before our species sees a ‘Global Spring’, we have some important decisions to consider. If the coronavirus has given us anything positive, it is a necessary break to reflect and re-examine ourselves, our economic systems, and our values. We are in a time when we are being asked to take stock, evaluate priorities, and consider humanity’s ‘progress’.

As one writer has put it, we are experiencing The Great Pause.

Don’t Be A Duke of Gloucester

In his opening monologue, Richard, the Duke of Gloucester laments his bad luck and being a cripple. What ensues is a riveting plot that includes betrayal, deception, manipulation, revenge and murder. With complete disregard for others and a voracious appetite for power, the tragedy’s protagonist devolves and eventually dies amid his destructive schemes and selfishness.

Having been locked down and our economies crippled, we should be careful that our response to the current crisis is NOT like Shakespeare’s Richard. We have all experienced isolation, loss, and dismay due to the current global crisis. But we have also seen the power of community, the importance of family and friends, and of course, the noble power of selflessness.

We are facing humanity’s ‘moment of truth’, a Great Reckoning. As individuals, leaders, organizations and societies, it is a time to instil hope and a sense of opportunity in ourselves and others.

Following are three modern-day lessons pulled from Richard’s sardonic soliloquy.

Stern Alarms…More Meetings

Facing “stern alarums” and participating in “merry meetings” online, we currently have the opportunity to ponder and plan renewal for ourselves and how we work, together. Basically how we ‘show up’ with others.

Maybe it is as fundamental as reconsidering how to treat the person who serves us coffee, cleans our home, or cares for our family? Perhaps it is rethinking the basic concept or value of what is considered “work”.

Whatever the realization, how we engage others — whether face-to-face or on Zoom — should be done with optimism and a sincere valuing of others in the room (virtual or otherwise).

Into this breathing world, scarce half made up

It is the time to take a fresh breath of air (featuring less carbon dioxide and other pollutants) to gain a new perspective. It is a chance to ponder how we wish to affect the next season in our individual lives, as well as the life of the planet.

From death, comes life, and during these times, we have the opportunity to create a new world order from the disorder created by COVID-19.

How are you looking at the future on a grander scale? Have you, in fact, gained a fresh perspective and a new sense of context from your experience of the coronavirus?

For some, renewal might be contemplating a new role, additional education, or ‘shifting of gears’ in their career. For others, it might be reconsidering whether they report financial results in quarters (mere slivers of time). Maybe it is a rebalancing of profit and purpose with more attention to environmental impacts, transparency and accountability.

Weak Piping Time of Peace

Our economies have received a significant reset, being crippled like Shakespeare’s Richard. But rather than turning inward, this is the time to seek out others. We are a highly social, co-dependent species. As we have learned through the current pandemic, self-preservation depends on a collective effort, and some degree of personal sacrifice. If we look back on history, we realize that everyone — from defeating enemies to feeding ourselves — have depended on the extent to which we collaborate.

Fortunately, we are seeing a variety of organizations and some nations bandying together to fight COVID-19. Competitors — some for the first time — are working together to tackle shared problems.

What these organizations are increasingly coming to realize is that planning and strategies cannot be implemented in isolation. We are a highly social, co-dependent species. Collaboration, cooperation, coopetition… whatever you want to call it, are all required.

In our race for efficiency, autonomy, and individualism, we have forgotten a vital truth: we need each other.

We have also come to the realization that growth is not infinite, just as summer is not forever.

But our Global Spring is coming, if we choose correctly.

Don’t be the Duke of Gloucester. Choose to be the Anti-Villain.



Andrew Fletcher Cole

Canadian Capetonian living in Toronto trying to be a good father and husband as I navigate through life on this mysterious planet. mrcole.net