I was listening to CBC Radio as I do most weekends and a retired minister from somewhere in Ontario was asked this question: “If you were still preaching, what do you think your message to your parishioners might be this Easter Weekend in the context of this novel Corona virus crisis?”
His response was very short because of time constraints but he suggested that if we learn anything, it should be that the “new normal” that keeps getting referenced is a misnomer.
He pointed out that for most of the people in the world, there is no “normal.” Normal is that mythical reality that a very small percentage of the world population gets to live because of their education and their economic wealth.
Nobody in their right mind would want to go back to the “normal” that existed immediately before this crisis because that normal isn’t something any of us should be aspiring to return to. It isn’t sustainable.
That normal is all about the one percent.
That normal is about how as humans we are encroaching upon other species to a degree that is forever changing the world’s biodiversity to the detriment of our health; a point this novel Corona virus hasn’t got through pointing out, in an almost retaliatory way.
Normal is being okay with the inequities that exist in society with the impoverished, as always, bearing the most direct and painful impacts on their lives. They live in crisis every day.
Normal is all those problems we have shamefully incorporated into our daily life – passing street people with toques on the ground for spare change – with no collective will to change that.
Any new normal might be all the things we knew were problems but have never acted upon.
Things like providing appropriate levels of resources including services for prevention, intervention and adequate treatment for mental illness.
Things like providing decent social housing so instead of being okay with people begging for money, in every city in the world, recognizing that every person deserves the dignity of having a roof over their head at the end of the day.
Seeing the compassion and wisdom, and even financial savings to society, in providing a guaranteed universal income.
Taking one’s personal moral opinion out of how we treat drug addiction and accepting that it is, first and foremost, a health/mental health issue and then providing the resources to treat it as such.
Switching to prevention as the main medical model, not treating illness that has taken decades to develop because of lifestyle choices, including my own.
Rethinking how we change social isolation, not just in the elderly but in young adults, in seniors and in middle-aged and older men. Especially since so many of us live alone now.
Coming to terms with ethical questions about the value of any life – at one month or 100 years.
Understanding that thinking small, thinking only about yourself and your family’s well being is now a threat to humanity.
Internalizing once and for all that climate change is still the greatest threat, much more so than this virus.
I was listening to another interview where an evolutionary biologist from UBC, Sally Otto, PhD, was speaking about how humans have brought more destruction on the biodiversity of the planet than any other species. Of course, we’ve head that before. She says we’ve become particularly good at destroying those species which could be considered “the specialists” and contributed to the greatest biodiversity in the first place.
While she says, she doesn’t have a lot of hope because of our impact on the natural world, she does have hope because of the way scientists around the world are working together with collective knowledge leading to better and quicker solutions. We see that as work on a vaccine and general research about the virus proceeds at unheard of before speed, because of global collaboration.
My friend Gwen pointed me towards this interview with Malcolm Gladwell. In this interview on the Munk Debates, Gladwell spoke to the issues I summarized above using a soccer team as the example.
A soccer team is only as strong as its weakest link. If you were going to improve the team, focusing on that weakest link and making it stronger would be the quickest way to make the entire team stronger. Our unsolved social problems are the weakest link in humanity.
I’m making mental notes of things I need to change in my own life when this is over. I expect many of you are doing the same thing.
The novel Corona virus is shining its wily contagious ways on the old normal and all its problems like never before.
We are now at a crossroads that will shape the evolutionary biology of human beings just as we continue to deliver the death blow to so many others species.