We have to accept and face the new reality. The on-going threat of a global pandemic is the ‘now normal’ and we’ll learn how to be resilient as we live with it. No, this is not a defeatist attitude. We’re being like normal Filipinos. We face some 20 typhoons a year that devastate our lives and livelihood. After each typhoon, we get up. We count our loses—lives and properties. We receive relief. We rebuild. We move on. Then we get ready for the next typhoon. This is life. We cry. We get angry. But we also make jokes about this life and laugh about it.
Is the threat of pandemic a new normal?
Yes. We are now evolving into a continuously-adjusting, pandemic-threatened society. The Economist reports that “millions of workers are toiling at home because of the pandemic” and that “many of them may never go back into the office.”
CNN lists six dramatic changes in the way we live:
:: Staggered school days and smaller class sizes
:: Disposable menus and masked servers
:: Empty stadiums and concert halls
:: Tracking of location and other personal information
:: Changes at airports and limited travel
:: Face masks may become an everyday accessory.
It’s not just the new normal, but the now normal.
There are reasons to be optimistic in this new normal. In an interview with Forbes Magazine, Steve Brown, author of The Innovation Ultimatum: How Six Strategic Technologies Will Reshape Every Business in the 2020s, said: “Stripped of the comfortable illusion of being in control, consumers will move to reassert control over their lives in ways big and small. Pantries will be kept stocked. Savings rates will increase. Consumers will ask more questions about where products come from, how safe food is to eat, and what it took to produce and ship goods to their homes. Business travel will drop, perhaps permanently, and digitization efforts will rapidly accelerate, as the increased use of telehealth, online education, and home grocery shopping have ably illustrated.“
He predicts the advanced development in six technologies—artificial intelligence, blockchain, sensors, autonomous machines, augmented reality, and 5G satellite constellation networks—that will “combine to create incredible new products and services, revolutionize business operations, elevate human work, and serve customers in new ways.”
Steve Brown is very optimistic about the future despite the reality of an on-going pandemic threat: “We are a resilient, adaptable, and innovative species. Our future remains bright. And, working together, we will make it so.”
This pandemic made us more aware of the injustices of our ‘taken-for-granted normal.’ We now know that we have been neglecting, perhaps even abusing, the ‘essential workers’ in our society. They are the nurses, the care workers, the cleaners, the transportation drivers, the utility workers, the food stores workers, and many others. When everybody else need to stay at home to avoid the virus, these frontliners worked in high risk conditions to keep us healthy, to feed us, to clean our streets, to transport us and our goods, to keep the utilities running.
How then should we appreciate them?
:: We must stand in solidarity with them as they demand for higher levels of pay with all the benefits.
:: More specifically and especially, we must lobby for adequate housing and health care for them.
:: We ought to regard them as highly valued members of our society, more than the politicians.
This pandemic prompts us to reconfigure how we live as a global community. There are global issues that inevitably become our personal concern.
:: The welfare of the poor necessarily affects the welfare of the rich and vice versa. We have to think of a common welfare in a common economy.
:: Health care is a basic human right and must be liberated from the greed-oriented Big Pharma.
:: The crisis of people across the ocean affects my neighbors across the street and the person I dine with across the table.
:: The billions of dollars we spend on military and weapons of mass destruction are actually white elephants in the midst of a global pandemic. We have to spend more on public health security.
These are the new local and global contexts wherein our partnership in the ministry of justice-based peacebuilding, through inclusive development and social entrepreneurial initiatives, will survive and even thrive. The Creator who sent us is also the Sustainer who will make us bloom wherever we’re planted.