We’re not post-Covid yet. But culturally, financially and even politically, things are destined to take a turn for us all. Kate Demolder writes about what we believe will happen next…[restrict]
Like the Black Death spreading along the trade-routes of 14th century Eurasia, COVID-19 emerged in China and quickly unfurled along the modern-day Silk Roads: international flight plans. Although the coronavirus may not uproot global health as catastrophically as the bubonic plague, this latest pandemic will almost certainly change the world.
1. The way we view comfort will change
It will be a long time before we are able to embrace friends and colleagues without worry. Instead of finding comfort in intimate and personal encounters, the way we view interpersonal experiences has suffered by way of a loss of innocence. It’s been hammered into us time and again for a year now that our former safe places are turgid with risk – meaning that online communication is likely to cement itself into our daily lives far more than we had previously planned. While touch, social interaction and somatic therapy will alway reside within biological needs, the psychological treatment we’ve received in recent times is set to somewhat undercut them. Self-holding exercises may be the order of the day for a little while longer.
2. A newfound appreciation for the everyday hero
In a world that prioritises celebrity, the global pandemic has flipped the narrative on who really should reside within a heroic frame. Shopkeepers, schoolteachers, nurses, porters, lollipop ladies and car mechanics – all of whom had to keep up appearances while similarly battling through one of the most intimidating pieces of history in our time.
While in good faith, many were quick to point out the inconsequentiality of Clapping For Carers, with respect, recognition and a rise in wages needed instead.
3. The rise of progressive telemedicine
It seems mindless to consider that we once kept a group of sick people en masse for a susceptible medic to treat them all individually when many can do the same via a phone call. The pandemic will shift the paradigm of where our healthcare delivery takes place – allowing this difficult time to prove productive by way of trial safety and accessibility methods.
For years, telemedicine has waited in the wings as a cost-controlling, high convenience system. Out of necessity, remote office visits could skyrocket in popularity as traditional-care settings are overwhelmed by the pandemic. There would also be containment-related benefits to this shift; staying home for a video call keeps you out of the transit system and, most importantly, away from immunosuppressed patients who need care.
4. The rules we lived by will change
The West’s response to COVID-19 has revealed a simple truth: a number of overly-bureaucratic policies telling us certain things would ‘never work’ were eminently doable all along. Last year we learned that evictions were avoidable, the homeless can be housed, suppliers needn’t have flicked the switch when bills weren’t paid and debtors could have been granted relief. Outgoing president Donald Trump put a suspension on interest for federal student loans, while Irish rent freezes have been in place on and off since March.
It’s clear that in a crisis, the rules don’t apply—which makes you wonder why they are rules in the first place. This is an unprecedented opportunity to not just reassess and reconvene, but to permanently change things for the better so that groups of people won’t have to deal with vulnerability in the future.
5. A regained trust in institutions
Historian John M. Barry wrote in his 2004 book The Great Influenza – a harrowing chronicle of the 1918 flu pandemic – the main lesson from that catastrophe is that “those in authority must retain the public’s trust” and “the way to do that is to distort nothing, to put the best face on nothing, to try to manipulate no one.”
For many young people, however, an unshaken belief in the system has traditionally let them down. The youth have dropped the traditional values of family, faith and fealty because the systems have never served them: The banks have conned them, the Church scandalises them, the political system shocks them and mortgage providers won’t back them. The COVID-19 pandemic, one hopes, will jolt us into a realisation that these institutions are essential to the functioning of a democracy—and to its ability to grapple effectively with a national crisis. However, these institutions will also have to prove themselves if they are to regain trust.
6. The inequality gap will widen
Though the global pandemic arrived as a surprise, the inequality obvious in its wake should have been predictable. Historically, previous epidemics have increased income inequality, with COVID-19 now widely seen as the greatest economic calamity since the Great Depression. While optimists expected a V-shaped recovery (meaning the economy would bounce back as quickly as it dropped) it seems that those in the know are suggesting that the recovery will resemble something closer to a K.
Writing in Forbes, Eric Brotman explains how this means the rich get richer. “The wealthiest Americans have been able to save money by reducing discretionary expenses, many of which normally support small businesses and their employees.
“Let’s look at the business world. Business Owner X who often travels for work just cancelled a dozen flights and changed those meetings to a virtual space. All of his/her employees have been successful working remotely, and the conferences that were planned for the year are now webinars. The business owner just saved thousands of dollars on flights, hotels, meals and even office utility bills. It may also have become clear that the amount of office space being paid for isn’t needed when remote work is so much cheaper.
“This is the branch of the K that is thriving.”
7. Our social relationships benchmark will change
While it is too early for any of us to know the effects of the pandemic on social relationships, the pandemic has provided many of us with a chance to assess our own relationships in a way perhaps never envisaged before. It will also allow us to think in different terms when considering bringing another person into our lives. Are we happy? Does this fulfil me? Would I want to spend another lockdown with this person?
Life in confinement has necessitated close, constant contact within families, likening our safe places to pressure cookers in a jagged time. That, combined with the financial stressors brought about by a burdened economy, does not a pleasant environment make. Both China, which was the first country in the world to go into full lockdown when the virus emerged there, and Hong Kong – where schools closed, shops were shuttered, and employees sent home – have experienced rises in marital conflict and a spike in divorce rates.
8. A shift towards bipartisanism
Taking cues from our neighbours to the west, it seems the insidious nature of bipartisanism is slowly gaining ground. A simple concept – choosing one path over another – seems to boast democratic efficiency. However, when executed, the gaping holes show the divisive power of extreme methodologies. Blue or red, science or religion, vaccines or not – this definitive method causes us to subconsciously choose an ‘us’ and ‘them’, in lieu of spirited debate. One to watch out for, as recent events have showcased.
9. A ‘lost generation’ for children
While much of the public realm have, rightly, focused on the frail bodies of our nursing home residents of late, many have contemplated the potential collateral damage at the other end of the age spectrum. What imprint will the COVID-19 era leave on the malleable nature of children’s minds?
We saw by way of Marcus Rashford the importance of routine for our world’s most vulnerable children, meaning that new systems must be considered for situations that may accommodate regressions such as COVID-19. Given that access to internet and a quiet study area is not available to everyone – much will have to be done to avoid a widening children inequality gap.
10. A regained determination for climate change
There is indeed a large push to ‘build back better’ from the pandemic in a way that confronts the climate crisis head-on. Attitudes are changing. But however good our intentions as individuals, it will take determined moves by industry, as well as national and local government, to modify the environment so that we can all build on any attitude changes. Has the pandemic helped us make the changes needed to tackle the environmental crisis? Dr Jonathan Derham from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says yes.