Everyone wants things to get back to normal. I get it, ‘normal’ is what we know. Even if your life didn’t seem particularly great before Covid-19 hit, you might still wish you were back in it now. But I think that the longer this whole Covid-19 thing is going on, the clearer it becomes: ‘Normal’ is gone for good.
Yes, economies might ‘bounce back’ after all this is over. But this and the old normal are two entirely different things. Thousands of businesses have already gone bust. People have died. Existences have disappeared. Global supply chains have been disrupted. Entire industries, particularly tourism and fossil fuels, may have been permanently disrupted.
Each of these things creates a rupture in our global socio-economic fabric. Just to give one example: “Tourism going bust” sounds flashy in a headline. But from aviation giants to tiny street-food providers, millions of people are tied up in the industry. And if they go down, their spending power disappears, too – which makes the downturn multiply across other industries as well.
Paradigms have shifted already. Working, meeting and learning remotely are taking root, all with their own multiplier effects across industries and social structures. These things are not normalizing, they have normalized. Unless a global Y2K-level cataclysm forces us off the screens and into direct social interaction again, these changes are here to stay.
This is simplified, of course. But the point is that we can’t flip a switch and pop back into 2019. So we should all do ourselves a favor and stop comparing our current situation to a ‘normal’ that no longer exists. It will save us from a lot of suffering, and a lot of wasted time that could have been used to finding ways to thrive with the change instead.
It’s not like we are powerless. There are tons of things to do. First, contain Covid-19. Some countries are doing it better than others. Let’s learn from the former and avoid replicating the latter. Second, prepare for the next pandemic. As scientists have been saying for years: The question is not ‘if’, but ‘when’.
Third, be real about the world we live in. Because everything we do has consequences. Whether it’s pollution, income inequality, disinformation or whatever, the answers to how to solve these questions aren’t going to come easy.
If the current pandemic has one positive effect, then it is the way in which it shows us the weak points of our societies. And whether it is the next pandemic or environmental disaster, or your geopolitical enemy de jour, if we are too complacent to do anything about them, we shouldn’t be surprised if we find ourselves redundant in the world of tomorrow.
On a more positive note, though, adaptation is kind of our thing. After dealing with constant change since forever, we wouldn’t be here anymore if we sucked at it. So, instead of bemoaning where we are at now, let’s be proactive in moving towards where we want to be. Then, if the past is any indication, things may turn out completely different from the ‘normal’ of the past. But they are going to go just fine.