What has the COVID-19 pandemic taught us? As we reflect upon its impacts on the economy, society and natural environment should we build a "new normal" as it recedes? Or should we simply return to the "normal" which caused its worst aspects?
The ideas provided here are meant to stimulate thinking and to challenge glibly held beliefs. The visitor is encouraged to put aside ideological stances and political allegiances and to test previously held dogma by weighing facts presented or otherwise gleaned. This essay was prompted by several folk who asked the author whether he thought that after the pandemic we should "get back to normal" or seek a "new normal".
What follows is almost in the form of an essay. Remember that ‘essay’ is related to the concept of ‘assay’ where a lump of rock is weighed and tested to ascertain its value - does it contain any gold and if so how much. Likewise an essay is meant to weigh and test the worth of a proposition. This web essay is unconventional in that it does not support arguments with copious citations. As an old academic that feels a bit strange but for this medium it seems sensible. Rather it is more journalistic - frequently referring to video discussions and journal articles to provide evidence and explanations in a wide variety of forms for readers to evaluate. So unlike normal citations which can often be ignored here the links usually are an integral part of the essay.
Unlike a normal, academic essay this does not intend to offer a definitive solution. Rather its intention is to encourage the reader to suspend judgement and to honestly consider the facts presented here by both the author and the varied videos and articles quoted. Finally instead of the author offering solutions those are left to the reader.
This essay does not intend to cover the actual virus, pandemic, or the health responses to it. Those topics will be the focus of dozens of papers written and PhDs undertaken over the next couple of years. The reader, if interested, will find a large number of commentaries online as the pandemic continues to unfold. For a palatable and informative taste try Stephen Fry’s "There's never been a president that..." .
Neither does it pretend to be a comprehensive survey of all the questions folk are asking about the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath. It will not canvass the progress of the pandemic and the health responses, but rather focus upon the social, economic, and environmental consequences. It draws attention to the instructive writing of others rather than simply rehash their work. Here are just a few of the key issues for the visitor to consider. Dip into one or two of them because you probably do not have time to examine them all at once. It will be a brave soul who undertakes this journey at one sitting. A new understanding may help everyone to a better future life.
Let us assume the proposition to be examined is something like -
The experience of the COVID-19 pandemic requires us to construct a different way of life to better serve the society, economy, and natural environment.
To assist the visitor the essay has been split into three parts.
The system isn't broken -
it was designed that way
If and/or when you get bored skip right to the last section of the Addendum and listen to some great songs.
What a daft place for a postscript! It is here to help the reader understand the low profile of racism in this piece.
Who would have guessed that in the midst of writing about the novel coronavirus pandemic another, worse “pandemic” would have taken our attention in such a dramatic manner. Although of course it was already a part of both the analysis and response to what has happened with COVID-19 the awful issue of systemic racism has been exposed as the worst face of economic inequality, social injustice, and moral iniquity following the murder of George Floyd in the USA. The outpouring of grief and anger around the globe over this atrocity has led to mass rallies which have highlighted the terrible plight of indigenous people, coloured people, minorities, immigrants, and poverty stricken in every nation.
Racism deserves total attention in a study of its own. It would do both the study of racism and pandemics a great disservice to attempt to deal with both equally here where the focus is on the aftermath of the virus. So there has been no rewrite and the focus remains on the unequal effects of that virus including the significant role racism plays.