What is so good with the ‘new normal’?

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by Prof. Andrew Azzopardi, Dean, faculty for Social Wellbeing

We are all cognisant that social life is construed of building blocks that when combined form a social structure. That people are closely engaged with each other is indeed fundamental and necessary. We can take the current epidemic paradigm as a case in point and the consequential reactive strategies as a rejoinder.  It immediately shows that the need to be together is evident in the recurring appeals from the Health Authorities and politicians ‘to stay away’ from each other. Some resisted and some persisted because being together is sine qua non to human nature.  In fact, Government had to resort to coercive action and invoke the Police Force to disperse groups on occasions.  This is evidence of the need for people to be with each other, which at times outweighs the fear of this noxious virus.

Covid-19 has affected millions of persons globally and almost everything and everywhere has grinded to a halt. Notwithstanding, it is interesting to note that it has not taken away our desire to be with each other – it has in fact worked the other way round!

Now that we seem to be seeing the tail-end of this pandemic many are asking how Covid-19 will have impacted our communities and what would have changed after this phenomenon, that has hit us all by surprise, almost literally, knocked us off our feet.  As many people have said, written and shared in many ways, it has been a surreal period of time.  Now governments are hot on their heels trying to jump-start the economy.  At the moment, there is an embedded sense that the ‘new normal’ is nothing we are looking forward to because there are so many issues we still need to contend with.

Because let’s face it.

Covid-19 has hit us straight where it hurts, for example, our governance mechanisms.  Where it not for an abundant, and what has been referred to, as an over-heating economy we would be going round in circles.  The measures taken by Government helped a lot.  However, this doesn’t mean we are out of the woods; homelessness, our social temperament, loneliness, anxiety levels, mental health are challenges we are going to be faced with and hence we need to see drastic changes and mega investments being made by the Government if we are going to overcome this wobble.

Naturally, the social sector has taken a good beating which is something we are experiencing as we speak.  Vulnerable people are enduring inequalities, this mixed with lack of funding mingled with moral panic and the fear of the unknown as legacy of COVID-19.

To get us out of this mishap, we need to mutilate from our current social psyche which is embedded in fear and unease.

I want to believe what Oscar Wilde (1891) claims in The Soul of Man under Socialism, when he said; ‘The State is to make what is useful. The individual is to make what is beautiful.’  True community does not fit into a prescribed model but the basic elements that govern it are real: humanity, inclusion, and sensibleness.  But is this the case?  Many who have been experiencing this imposed ‘distancing’ have really and truly been snubbed from our communities.

But there is hope.

People are essentially designed to be with each other. It is fascinating that even though the neo-liberal economic model, we embrace, has endeavoured to distance us, we have maintained an entrenched need to hang on dearly to one another as if our lives depended on it. Emile Durkheim’s ‘collective consciousness’ as a building block in promoting the fundamental notion of solidarity is key. This notion creates an oath between individuals leading eventually to edict and steadiness. In the absence of a moral consensus the opposite would happen; skirmish and disarray, we now call social distancing.

But who knows? Maybe Covid-19 is an excellent opportunity to think about all those we’ve decided to plonk in the socially induced Bermuda Triangle and maybe undo this physical and social distancing we forced on them.  Perhaps now we have a teeny-weeny bit of understanding on how these persons are feeling.  It’s up to us at this point to reach out – Covid-19 has provided us with a golden opportunity.