I’ve been taking a series of breaks from the internet and social media in general while I’m trying to gather my thoughts and ascertain how I am really feeling. I’ve been trying to be more present and observe the world around me with more clarity and precision. My local council has installed pedestrianisation zones in my area in an attempt to reduce atmospheric pollution that has long been contributing to respiratory-related illnesses and deaths. It’s a scary reckoning for Londoners that we have spent the last six weeks scorched outside in the heatwave in amongst the same air that is also suffocating us. The poisons that are most pernicious are often cloaked from our immediate view, dressed up like sirens luring us into treacherous, uncharted waters. It can sometimes take a devastating crash to help you finally uncover what was leading you astray in the first place.
Life hasn’t quite returned to normal yet, which still leaves open the possibility that we will have to enter into a world that is both familiar and slightly off-kilter from what we once knew it was. There are aspects of the last few months that have felt promising, such as being able to meet family and eat out at restaurants and bars, but the uncertainty that surrounds our long-term future continues to hang over us. I keep asking myself what I can do to prepare myself for the oncoming horizon. How do I deal with the challenges that this new frontier will inevitably possess and will my previously-established systems be null and void in this abstract environment? I have a strong urge to create, build and innovate, but this natural inclination doesn’t align well against a backdrop where instability and fear have brought the world to a sharp, unforeseeable halt. It seems mad to me that we witnessed everything that we took for granted disappear within a matter of months, irreversibly changing people’s lives for the worse, yet there is a certain fervour to drop these temporary public health provisions in order to reclaim the lives we once lived. Whether that sentiment is an example of resilience or naivety is inconsequential to the fact that we simply can’t shake off this collective trauma and walk back to the seats we were sitting in before the world was changed.
The revelations that have come out of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has brought burning daylight onto issues of racial inequalities, the climate crisis, rampant cronyism, the omnipotence of tech companies and, crucially, perversive self-interest in a world that doesn’t care about its neighbours anymore. The pandemic ignited the power of global effort, the ability for nations to come together and resolve problems with lightning speed and a high degree of efficacy. The mRNA vaccine produced in a matter of months, companies operating remotely with greater efficiency within weeks and free school meals provided to children in the UK after one tweet from a footballer – putting pressure on social issues makes diamonds. The manifestations of these issues were not freak, force majeure events, rather they were the systematic exploitation or wilful ignorance of humans who had become comfortable basking in their own self-interest, no matter the cost. It be may possible to draw parallels with the 2008 global financial crash, where the precarious stacking of mortgage-backed securities and toothless financial regulation enabled corruption and subsequently ruined the livelihoods of many. Our chickens have come home to roost as a result of our morally bankrupt actions once again, so it is imperative that we update our current systems to be sturdier and more pandemic-proof.
The next time an excuse is put forward for the reason why any problem is experiencing inertia, know that solutions exist, but the impetus might be lacking. Change, no matter how small, local or seemingly insignificant, can be achieved, especially if we are moving into a new space where rules and regulations are looking to be rebuilt from the ground up. The potential for creators, builders and innovators to thrive is starting to take shape, provided there is sufficient pressure to back it up.