How quickly the void of an uncertain future has been replaced with a new normal. On the eve of a hot summer, with impulses setting in to be perched outside soaking in as much vitamin D as possible, it is even more impressive to see the majority of us aspiring to alter our behaviour for the greater good. It is testament to our ability to adapt to external change in the style of Darwin’s mechanism, as well as our devotion to do our own small bit in order to contribute towards the national effort, that has tackled the single most destructive pandemic the 21st Century has seen. And our way of coping with entering this unfamiliar territory has also been very 21st Century. Zoom pub quizzes and online fitness classes are just some of the boundless examples of how we are all making the most of our lives despite the invisible chaos raging on outside our homes.
It seems that there has been a much-needed recalibration of things that we have previously taken for granted. One of the small silver linings that can be drawn from this collective experience has been the widespread questioning of the status quo; in the search for answers during a desperate situation, nothing is spared from being examined under the microscope, even what was considered entrenched.
The original purpose of the internet, that being to connect us with the people we care about the most, has seemed to resurface after a decade of permeating loneliness within the dark recesses of chat forums and influencers using advertising as a means to extort us for our deep-seated inadequacies. But I like this new internet, as it must bear a resemblance to what the boffins behind APRANET or Tim Berners-Lee had been trying to construct decades ago. I have made more meaningful contact with those closest to me in the past month that I had for the past several years, and yet this is when I have been at my most physically isolated. It’s made me question how much of this revolutionary technology, which has only existed for a short breath in the context of human history, I have gleefully wasted on websites designed to waste my time, rather than invest in human relationships that are irreplaceable and invaluable.
This is, of course, easy to say coming from someone who has escaped the effects of this global shutdown relatively unscathed. There are medical professionals on the front line who have lost their lives fighting to keep others alive working 14 hour shifts, who are finally getting the recognition they deserve for their service. And all this whilst fighting an unfair fight, given the uphill struggle that they face having to expend their energy propping up a health service that has been decimated from the inside. The frustration emanating as a result of the cracks being uncovered embedded within a number of institutions will, above things, amount to serious questions being answered. It would be remiss to think that there is little chance of future viral infections sending countries into shutdown, so accountability and future-proofing measures need to be outlined to instil public confidence in those who are in power.
Something will have to give. Aside from the inevitable inquests into the government’s indecisiveness and regulation within Chinese wet markets, positive action can arise from the ashes. The environment has been one of the true victors from the screeching halt of major cities, with pictures from Venice showing the canals to be the clearer than they have ever been. Thunberg and the green community must take this opportunity to bang on the doors of those who wield power to forge a new economy that is not mutually exclusive; growth and sustainability.
Manageable working hours, healthier eating, regular exercise and enriching our knowledge are all things that have become hallmarks of this particular period of human history, but will these practices continue once normalcy returns? Employers should pay more mind to the demands of their workforce, and adjust their expectations accordingly. A number of companies have already adopted a 4-day working week, and there is a real opportunity to strip away the traditional working pattern of laborious hours and implement policies designed to improve the mental health and long-term productivity of every worker.
Will we begin to prioritise ourselves?