As we think about what our world – our individual countries and communities – might look like when this pandemic is finally fully in check, we find ourselves with options. We can work hard to get things back to being as close to the way they were as possible, or we can take this opportunity to think about whether there are some things we may want to do differently. It is a rare occasion when nations are given the chance to observe at close range both the strengths and weaknesses of their social and economic structures and consider how well their policies support the values of their citizens. This is such a time.
A few examples:
- Each country will have an opportunity to re-evaluate their commitment to equality and to the principles of equal opportunity – access to housing, food, healthcare, and education – and see how they stack up for every segment of society.
- Each country will have an opportunity to decide if their care workers – in seniors’ residences, other special care homes, and hospitals – deserve to have wages and benefits that are commensurate with the value of their work to our most vulnerable loved ones, or just keep the clearly unacceptable status quo.
- Each country will have an opportunity to decide if they want to bail out the oil and gas companies at taxpayers’ expense or whether they should use the same money to instead invest in expanding the renewable energy sector, thereby investing in the future of our planet and shifting employment opportunities to that sector.
- Each country’s citizens – not just their politicians – will have the opportunity to re-evaluate their country’s economic and social priorities, as well as the corresponding tax structures. Having come through a brutal global pandemic, with countless lives lost and millions of lives upturned, should the priorities of your country focus solely on getting the economy up and running? Or should addressing now-exposed gaps in social safety nets be an integral part of the recovery process? The directions your government chooses to take during recovery will impact the quality of life and future of all citizens of your country. Those impacts of the “new normal” can be for the better or they can be an altered version of the status quo. If you’re supportive of a better way forward, let your views be known.
Will your personal priorities change at all as a result of your lockdown experience? Will you spend a bit more cautiously or spend with mad abandon as soon as the stores reopen? Will you save a bit more or figure life is too short to worry? Will you enjoy more of the simpler things in life that you’ve been forced to do for the past several weeks, like taking long walks and doing jigsaw puzzles, or will you head out for as much out-of-house entertainment as possible as soon as possible? Will you fly less and maybe rethink your dreams of a cruise, or just jump back into global travelling as soon as possible? Has this pandemic and forced isolation changed the way you think about some things in a lasting way?
We keep hearing that when we emerge from our sheltering in place, the new normal will be different from the old normal. We’ll see. The new normal has the chance to be (even) better than the old normal, built on a foundation of respect for each other and for our planet. We can hope.
Image credits: Pinterest, ShutterStock