Updated: May 19, 2020
CRJI Director Harry Maguire reflects on "The New Normal" during the COVID-19 crisis and what it means for the future. We—as a community and as a larger society—have many challenges and questions facing us. We must decide what we want the future to like and put standards in place to guarantee human rights and equality for all as we move ahead.
"We need to take and learn from the lessons of the pandemic so as to change our priorities going forward."
Much has been made of the newest catchy phrase, "The New Normal," but we are only at the beginning of what that really means, and even worse, we are still by and large at the reactive stage of that where many are experiencing the direct costs of the Global Pandemic, Covid - 19. At the sharp edge, this has been the death toll that the pandemic has brought— untold suffering across the world, extreme illness with lasting impact and a fear that has been unrivalled for a generation. For most of us, it has been the lockdowns, work furloughs, wholesale unemployment, and the changing and adapting of how we do things.
Unfortunately, this is only the beginning—a first look at how such an emergency can impact what we took for granted as a normal way of life. Indeed, there are more questions than answers, and as we move through this crisis I hope we start to embrace that reality.
We were previously aware of the downfalls of social media and in our line of work we have experienced some of those (like bullying, abusing messaging, fake stories about real people and so on). We have engaged with many of these issues through our Restorative Justice work and quite successfully so, but this is only one story on the use—or misuse—of social media. However, during this health crisis I most certainly have seen the best of social media—personally, professionally and as a community activist. Social media platforms have been at the heart of the responses many have made to the pandemic. We have connected with family, work colleagues and friends through these platforms, and the messaging throughout our network of community organisations has been exceptional. These types of examples highlight the best use of social media as we have been treated by our neighbours to baking classes, concerts and dance offs.
But where do we go from here? There is much to contemplate on. How long will this go on for? Will there be a vaccine? Will another, stronger strain of Covid - 19 emerge in the winter and will the concept of facing into this type of crisis become ever more regular? These are big questions. These as yet are unanswerable, but what is there in-between as we grapple with new normal?
We already know some of the challenges that are in front of us: the damage to the environment and what is needed to reverse that; world poverty even though we have enough food; health inequality across the globe; and, of course, let's not forget how we organise ourselves economically. These are the big questions we are already engaged with. So what has Covid - 19 to do with these?
In my opinion the pandemic has opened up a new window on these questions. The pandemic has given us a first shot in this generation to see what a global crisis can do to our way of life. It should have us asking, "Is our old way sustainable or do we need to adapt in a planned and radical manner?" We need to take and learn from the lessons of the pandemic so as to change our priorities going forward—that the inequality thrown up by the health crisis is real and unacceptable, that the colour of your skin, your living conditions or access to health care may determine if you live or die is no longer a priced that should be paid. These, for me, are some of the thoughts that I'm having as we move through this dreadful period in human history.
It is possible for us, in my view, to start to grapple with the "New Normal" and decide what that will look like, but more importantly, it can help us determine how to shape that "normal" for the betterment of all.