FOR THOSE NOT READY TO RETURN TO 'NORMAL'
I was sitting in a hotel room with my father, still buzzing from the fun of a family night out, when Boris Johnson announced that ‘we should be prepared to lose loved ones’; a cold and defeatist message that resembled the government’s response to the next year of the pandemic. I still remember when I returned to my University accommodation only to pack a few things and spend what I thought would only be a couple of weeks at my aunt’s house. I could never have imagined spending the next several months of my life in lockdown. It feels like time flew by me. 2020/2021 felt like non-years, like a pause in life, except time kept going.
The majority of us shared one commonality during the lockdown; its limitations. We could not fly, see friends, or go to the pub or cinema, which affected us differently. On the one hand, some people have been able to jump right back into the routine of their pre-pandemic lives, seizing every moment and living life to the fullest. On the other hand, however, there are many reasons why the return to normal isn’t some utopic second chance for everyone. The pandemic was a time of hardship and worsened socio-economic disparities for some. Now, before people have had a chance to catch their breaths and adjust to normalcy, the cost of living crisis is taking its toll. For others, adjusting may prove more difficult in a less tangible way; those who struggle to shake off the pandemic, who hoped for a return to a better normal and generally feel mentally conflicted in these strange times.
For many, returning to pre-pandemic times is far from what would be considered ideal. It is no secret that during the quiet times of lockdown, we all had more time to pay attention to what was happening around us, with issues such as mental health, climate change, racism, worker’s rights and police brutality becoming impossible to ignore. For people who feel like the pandemic was a moment for the world to recognise that it could be doing better and that this gave us a chance to rebuild, the current push to return to normal without accounting for the massive flaws and problems we’ve had in society, must feel like insanity.
In other words, the world seems to be readjusting to an unjust normal. It raises the ultimate question of what disaster, phenomena, and tragedy will be enough for the world to embrace positive change?
For the BIPOC community, the pandemic revealed or perhaps only emphasised an unfortunate fact and not a question; the world simply does not care enough and maybe never will. Our freedom, dignity and respect are rights that must be consistently fought for and guarded. Unfortunately, the violence and hatred towards Asians online and in real life as the pandemic unfolded has not been adequately addressed. The pandemic led to the outbreak of hate directed at Asians globally, blaming them for the spread of the pandemic. The statistics in the US are appalling as nearly 3,800 instances of discrimination against Asians from 2020 to 2021. Now, crimes against members of the Asian community remain high.
Further, at the peak of COVID, there was a black struggle globally. In the US and UK, people were forced to protest against police brutality after being forced to watch the horrific video of George Floyd as he struggled for his last breath at the hands of a police officer. This unfortunate incident was only the beginning of further losses in the black community, from Breonna Taylor to Oluwatoyin Salau. I will repeat this for emphasis, in the middle of a pandemic, with no real protection from COVID19, the American police were still enacting violence against the black community. In Africa, movements like End SARS to Congo is Bleeding showed that citizens were fed up with their oppressive governments, police brutality, and Africa's capitalist exploitation. Global South countries had to deal with vaccine apartheid. There has been little room for research or talk about the effect on us. At our lowest, suffering the worst financial, physical and mentall effects of COVID-19, we still had to show up and extend ourselves.
A lot of what we are currently seeing is the result of a series of bad decisions that go beyond the pandemic; the increase in living costs, the threat of a global recession, the disregard for activists and protestors raising real issues like climate change, police brutality, and trans rights. We have witnessed in real-time how the decisions made by our governments affect us. More importantly, the pandemic demonstrated that most of those in power globally will always work to protect their interests first.
For example, in the UK, from brokering billion-dollar deals with friends, breaking lockdown rules, and failing to show up for key workers, the government showed that protecting the most vulnerable in society is a far cry from being on their list of priorities. In the US, despite justified calls for the abolition of the police, the government still responded to all incidents with more police. In Nigeria, when citizens protested to end police brutality , they were shot and killed by their government. The pandemic confirmed what we already knew, that the world is intentionally designed to cater to the wealthy and fortunate. While the rest of the world suffered to make a living and adjust to unprecedented times, the rich got richer at the cost of everyone else. The world’s wealthiest individuals — like Jeff Bezos and Mark Zuckerberg- got richer in 2020, while the world’s poorer individuals fell further behind, suffering increased unemployment rates.
The return from the pandemic could have been viewed as a second chance. However, we have been trained to prioritise corporate profit over humanity. It was a chance for governments globally to work harder to build a more sustainable and equitable world, but they fumbled the bag in every way imaginable. From the cost of living to the climate crisis, all these problems result from the refusal to admit that we need to rethink how the world works. The most worrying part of all this is that our leaders know better, the data is there, and there are people ready with solutions. However, they would rather have us all believe that the issues we are facing now were inevitable and a consequence of what we are expected to think is the world's natural order.
So, if you find yourself feeling conflicted about the ‘return to normal, you’re not alone. We should not want to return to normal that means total disregard for our humanity, sanity, and the planet.