It took one severe course of event for the world to start using the buzzword “new normal”. And soon the word was everywhere, in newspapers, newsrooms, magazines, tabloids, chat shows, everyday conversations, Zoom office pleasantries, etc. One can not go a day without seeing the word at least once, even in the sixth month of Lockdown in India. I can’t go without seeing this word at least once. It makes me wonder: what was normal about our lives pre-Covid?
Just think about it for a moment, our lives before the virus plagued us. In the micro-scheme of things, we were crippling under mental health issues like anxiety and depression and refusing to address it. We were wasting our precious time travelling to work or meetings; things which could have been done over the phone. We were putting the important stuff into the back of our minds just because it wasn’t urgent enough. That was the story of our lives.
In the macro-scheme of things, we were taking for granted the unorganised sector which constitutes more than 90% of India’s workforce whose livelihood is majorly dependent on the outdoor activity of the working class in the organised sector, the healthcare capacity to provide for a health emergency like a pandemic, the bias of media to focus on the soft targets like Bollywood, the treatment given to the minority communities of our country, the contracting GDP and the rampant unemployment.
In the long and short of it, in the micro and macro of it, clearly signifies there was nothing normal about the times pre-Covid in the first place for us to start embracing the new normal. If the pandemic did one thing it highlighted the ever-present, ever crumbling state of matter which needed to be looked into in the first place. It highlighted the morbid place we were living in as the standard, we agreed to in our ignorance.
This made me look into pandemics in the past and how they changed the world. Be it the Justinian Plague, black death or Spanish flu, they have created social upheaval, weakened empires and collapsed governments. In the vein of the same, the Coronavirus Pandemic has not only done all three things as a matter of fact, but there is something new of a consequence.
It made us witness how strong the internet economy is. While the world has gone to shambles, the big tech boys of the internet have made more money than ever. While there is nothing wrong with people making more money, for the economy to run, it takes more than “all for one” and “one for all”. The inequality is too widespread to ignore and the pandemic has only highlighted it for good.
In praise of the new normal and redundancy of the old normal, there are some serious questions which we must ask ourselves if we want to move towards a normal which is habitable to a significant population of the world.
How can we use the growing capitalism to the benefit of the majority? In whose favour is the government with the introduction and abolition of bills; the powerful few. They should provide incentives and wages to those who have served their cause. How important is art and the work of artists who make our lives better with their words, acts, songs and movies? How can we encourage and dignify their work with an incentive? In what ways can the power of social media and technology be scaled to make livelihood at large, fair for all?
In conclusion, let’s not go back to the old normal, let us not settle for the new normal in ways that it is an addition of a word in the script of the day. There is more to it. Let’s add more by seething things for what they are and redefine the course of our lives with actions for a sustainable tomorrow, or else the whole upheaval of humanity caused by the coronavirus will go to waste. Let’s take it with the urgency of nature’s call.