This Is Not the New Normal
Source: Unsplash
Truth Well Told (TWT)

This Is Not the New Normal

"All the while, we are being told that we need to embrace the new normal. The problem is, I don't buy that." - Simon Hughes

By Simon Hughes

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As Greater Gaborone sees the latest ride on the Corona-Coaster come to an end (our third period of 'lockdown'), the profound temporary changes we are facing as individuals and communities are starting to look more and more permanent. Hopefully, not the continued decline of the economy, which let's face it seems plausible right now. Instead, the changes to how we live and work.

While until recently, Botswana has gotten off lightly; watching the pandemic from the outside looking in, the situation is changing rapidly. The precautions we have been following that saw us all going through the motions - hand sanitiser, washing hands more frequently, not shaking hands etc. - are now critical if we are not going to see things skid out of control. Unfortunately, when you go through the motions for too long without feeling the consequences of the 'thing' you are trying to avoid, you get sloppy. Discipline starts to slide, and you take your eye off the ball. Unlike China, Italy, France, UK, and many others, where even when you followed these precautions people were getting sick and dying all around, we have been in a bubble, enforced by increasingly unsustainable border closures and movement restrictions. They have generally worked, but I think we all know that something has got to give. But what? It is like putting your hole in a leaking dam wall. When do we take our finger out? And, when we do, what will happen? We all want economic activity to continue, but can we cope with a rapid increase in infections from a public health perspective?

Source: Unsplash

All the while, we are being told that we need to embrace the new normal. The problem is, I don't buy that. Not the changes in behaviour, but quite literally the name we are giving our current circumstances. This may just be a matter of semantics, but perhaps not. Sometimes, semantics matter. I say this is not the new normal, but the new reality as there is nothing normal about any of this.

And, to be clear, I am not one of those whack-jobs that believes COVID-19 was created in a lab by one country to blame on another or some other nonsense. I also don't think it is an influenza bug that has been blown out of proportion. I, like many others, am deeply concerned about it. From a public health perspective, including mine and my family; and also, from an economic perspective. But, more so because there is such inconsistency in messaging, response and guidance from all quarters. And this drives uncertainty - the worst footing to be on as a human. We behave irrationally; believing things, disbelieving things, flip-flopping in between the two; and in the absence of anything else start making things up to make ourselves feel better. Or, worse, make things up to make others feel worse, so we feel better. I think we all know who I am talking about here. Part of this is related to never wanting to be the smartest person in the room. Always believing that there are more intelligent people out there, who are prepared and ready to respond. And, in situations like this are looking beyond opportunities for personal gain. Once again, my expectations have been dashed on the rocks of reality.

Source: Unsplash

Despite how I personally feel in crowded places, humans are social beings. We need interaction and contact. Remember that feeling when someone you love hugs you? No matter how cynical and aloof you are, there is someone in all of our lives that has that effect on us. And, have you recently seen footage of your favourite sporting event or social/night-club from a few years ago, and felt that strange combination of feelings - 'Boy, I miss that' and 'Look how many people are packed into that space!!!' Has that gone forever? That uncomfortable yet liberating feeling of letting go in a concert crowd, or just feeling part of a community of like-minded people enjoying a shared experience. We need each other. Perhaps this why so many of us have been sucked even further into believing that social media equates to meaningful interaction while becoming increasingly isolated and feeling more alone than ever before.

So, are we going to recede into our shells and communicate only through our devices where can be more easily manipulated by ad-word driven commerce? Imagine if the only meaningful relationship you would have with the outside world is with the delivery driver for your area? Or, are we going to get through this, change some aspects of our behaviour and then demand that our governments are more prepared for this type of calamity so that we can go back being human beings again? We have all seen the benefits of reminders to be more on-point regarding personal hygiene, and perhaps a little 'room for the holy spirit' is needed in social interactions. Still, we cannot live our lives more than two metres apart forever.

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