I finally forced myself to sit down and think. Becoming almost fed up of hearing that we are now experiencing a ‘new normality,’ I found myself obstinately asking “What exactly is so ‘new‘ about it?!” Apart from the incessant hand sanitizing and (loosely enforced) social distancing measures, it seems that my life before and after lockdown has barely changed.
The title of a book by Richard Rohr comes to mind – Order. Disorder. Reorder. This is the process that we should have undergone as a society and as individuals, yet it seems amply clear that the new normality is nothing more than a rush to bring back the same old order to the disorder that Covid has caused. I fear that the experience and suffering we have collectively undergone has failed to truly challenge us, such that we still stubbornly try to fit a square peg into a round hole.
These few months have been an occasion for us to see some of the finest qualities we have as a society; we have gone to extreme lengths to look after the vulnerable and elderly, we’ve foregone profit in order to help those who needed a break, we’ve each given of what we have in terms of time, money and talent, and reached out to those who were alone and in need of a friend to talk to. Yet, if we’re honest, we’ve also seen some of our worst; out of fear we’ve left helpless individuals imprisoned at sea, we’ve panic-bought more than we needed and disregarded the needs of others, we’ve prioritized the economic gain of some over the physical and mental wellbeing of others.
Reorder – the truly ‘New Normality’
So where does this leave us? For a truly ‘new normality,’ we must not bring back the old order, but reorder, specifically, reorder what values we have as a society. The Covid experience has showed us – without a shadow of a doubt – that our health and the health of our planet are inextricably linked, that the environment cannot be a ‘side project’ that continually inconveniences our primary aim of economic growth. Life in lockdown has taught us the value of forming healthy and strong bonds with others, how we truly are our ‘brother’s keeper.’
The list goes on. The point of what I am trying to convey is not to attempt to elucidate everything that we should have learnt – I think this is an continual process that should be undertaken as individuals and as a community. My point, rather, is that we need to undergo this process. We need to bring about this reordering – a truly ‘new normality’ that is more new than normal – but this can only be done if we choose to take the risky step of rethinking everything we thought we knew. But of course, rethinking is the hardest thing to do.