What is the point of rushing to return to “normality”, when “normality” wasn’t working?
If 2020 has proved anything, it’s that change is necessary. In the UK, COVID restrictions are starting to relax (up to 6 people are now allowed to meet outside maintaining two metres of social distancing) in a bid for the country to start to return to normal - but why return to “normal” when the “normal” wasn’t working?
The economy has understandably taken a blow from the COVID pandemic, but before rushing to build it back up wouldn’t this period of economic slowdown be an opportunity to redesign an economy that works for everyone. The current economic structure generally only benefits the few; in 2019 women were paid approximately 83p for every £1 men were paid in the UK, Shell’s total revenue was 344.88 billion US dollars (the UK’s largest oil and gas producer), 14.3 million people are living in poverty in the UK and being part of an ethnic minority makes this more likely, 17.2% of white people live in poverty compared to 35.7% of Ethnic minority people. The economy Boris Johnson is determined to restart doesn’t benefit women, the environment or people of ethnic minorities. Surely this is the perfect opportunity to fix this - when else is the economy going to slow down and the country grind to a halt to such an extent and create this opportunity again?
Exams have been cancelled for the first time since the system was introduced and schools have been empty for months. Over the past week, I’ve realised how flawed my education has been so far; I’ve been inspired by the Black Lives Matter protests and campaigns in response to the death of George Floyd into educating myself on the history of black people and ethnic minority groups. Why had I not been taught this in school? Aside from gaining qualifications, school is meant to turn out well rounded, knowledgeable individuals who have a firm understanding of the world and their place in it. Understanding the past is the key to shaping the future, so why are young people not being educated on the history of their country, however uncomfortable it is? Why is it that I was taught that Elizabeth I said that she had “the body but of a weak and feeble woman; but I have the heart and stomach of a king, and of a king of England too” over 400 years ago, but found out for myself the work of Martin Luther King Jr and his “I have a Dream” speech even though that was just 60 years ago? The combination of the Black Lives Matter protests and the considerable disruption to the normal school year would make this a good opportunity to review if the national curriculum grows the sort of people needed to lead us in the future.
The key problem with returning “back to normal” is the “back”.
COVID 19 has created a suitable pause to evaluate the society we live in, the way we live our lives, our everyday habits, and our priorities. The key problem with returning “back to normal” is the “back”. A lot of important issues have been brought to light this year, before we surrender ourselves to the endless cycle of discrimination, oppression and disregard for the planet we all share, maybe this is the opportunity we’ve been waiting for, to move forward, not back.
It’s as close to a blank slate as we can realistically get, so as a society and a species we need to seriously consider the narrative of the new normal.