Well, unfortunately, things are getting back to normal. I know that we need to try and re-establish some semblance of normal life if we are to survive, and that we must find some way to coexist with the coronavirus if the societal and economic damage that is developing doesn’t end up killing more of us than Covid19 itself. I always knew that the return phase might be the more difficult – if you terrify people so that they stay at home then, once the fear of death has been instilled, it might be difficult to get them to come back out again. Perhaps I needn’t have worried we seem to be rushing back to normal quiet quickly.
I had hoped that our “new normal” might have be rather different. I hoped that we would have learnt a lot during our incarceration and might come out refreshed and determined to build a better society. I’d envisaged that after our war was won, we would start to build a new world “fit for heroes”. I had hoped that we would have seen the need to improve our health and social care provision and felt grateful so that we would respect those that worked there better. I’d imagined that we might have seen the recklessness of long supply chains and vulnerability of food production and decided that we needed to ensure more self-reliance and better food security. I was certain that the dangers of the mass transit of people around the globe, again proving itself to be the best vector to create and distribute a pandemic, would ensure we looked at ways to reduce this type of travel. I was also sure that overcrowding and high population density, which already knew were bad for us, would be addressed when we saw the impact it had on the death statistics. However, it seems none of these are our immediate priorities.
Initially it looked promising. We organised ourselves to support each other, neighbours collected shopping for neighbours. We avoided waste and learnt how to cook from scratch. The government sat down with the trade unions and found ways to try and mitigate some of the effects of the lockdown. We went to our doors and windows to pay respect to those who were working to keep us safe and our society ticking over. There was an explosion of charitable feeling and actions. Scientists, as always, started to cooperate to find treatments but companies stopped competition and worked together to make ventilators and protective equipment. We felt as if “we are all in this together” and concerted efforts would pull us through this difficult time. But now that we are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel, and have the scent of freedom in our nostrils, it seems we are willing to jettison all of this and resume some aspects of “life as normal”.
We have taken to the streets with cavalier disregard to restoking the pandemic and have started to fight each other. Those not actively on the streets throwing punches and bottles are on social media throwing invectives and threats. Our media has decided to raise the temperature by partisan reporting; the BBC describing one event as “largely peaceful” when 28 police officers are injured and another as “violent protest” when 2 officers are injured. Any observer could see it was pretty equal thuggery on both occasions, but our media has stopped holding impartiality as a standard and no longer reports ‘without fear or favour’. In addition to this many of our politicians have decided that this is a way to court popularity and see riding this wild horse as a way to electoral success. They have made barely disguised calls for action to their favoured side of the public – these dog whistle calls have had their effect and packs of wolves have gathered on the streets to pull down lumps of carved stone. The culture of one group of people has been held up, like a rag to a bull, to inflame the passions of others in our population. Neighbour has been set against neighbour as the common ground of our society, our shared values and heritage, has been ripped up and thrown away.
Our early promises of working together to overcome the predicament we find ourselves in, as well as the promising to cooperate to build a better future, now seem increasingly distant. Powerful forces seem intent on dividing us up into smaller, increasingly hostile, groups. This may be in their interests, but it is not in ours. We need to reject this agenda; however it is presented, and focus on our common humanity. It is by doing this that we might have a chance or progressing, we don’t have to accept the bleak and depressing future that it being painted for us.