In the Return to Normalcy: Possibilities in a Post-Covid-19 World

A lot of discussions have begun regarding how society can and will inevitably need to adapt after the catastrophic changes of the pandemic. Everyone can feel these changes reverberating through the atmosphere.  It is in the way professors and students alike dance around the words “trying times” gritting their teeth as their fingers flutter over their keyboards, unable to sink their footing to the ever-changing beat in the undercurrent of society. There has been an outcry reaching even the farthest breadths of society yearning for such a change. So, in the eventual return to a sense of normalcy, how should we proceed? Pandemics are known to alter the fabric of societies and act as bearers of landmark revamps for as long as they have existed. So, when we say ‘normal’, what are we referring to? 

My thoughts on the matter, are of course my own, and I welcome you to consider what ideals you may have in the fight for societal advancement. While we all band together and work through these “trying times”, the question begs to answer: Where do we start?

In the United States especially, we have a long way to go on all fronts. I would not dare attempt to try and address all of our systemic challenges and barriers, however, in the attempt to lay some groundwork, these are the changes I hope can aid in setting us on the right track forward. Setting aside disbelief and likelihood for the moment, as a final note before digging into the meat and potatoes of the matter at hand: these plans are formulated solely by my studies as a political science student and observations, and as such, I will not be discussing the finer details of how, when, or to what degree we can implement these ideas. My focus here is on the ‘Why’ and on keeping our eyes on to future with our heads up and hearts open. 

empty classroom Photo by Feliphe Schiarolli from Unsplash

Let us begin by addressing primary levels of education, as it is a chain only as fortified as its weakest link. In the United States, the redesigning of education systems will not and cannot happen overnight; it needs slow implementation to avoid culture shock and the disastrous effects it could have on a growing population of young professionals in the future. I just learned that a bachelor's degree is becoming about as useful as a high school diploma as if that was warming news graduating into a broken economy. However, it is worth discussing the mandated course material currently present in our primary education systems, as experienced by me and every other disgruntled college student. A primary school in the U.S. desperately underprepared its citizens in ways nearly impossible to believe it was not set up in ways to forcefully stunt us. Female healthcare, comprehensive sex education? Most students, unless you come from a particularly open-minded background, have not even begun to scratch the proverbial surface. Sex education and women’s healthcare in particular are learned through the retellings of stories through our closest friends and family members and we all understand how those closest to us can get swept up in the dramatics of a good story. The education on these matters is not objective or comprehensive. 

Some statistics for your leisure (Source: Planned Parenthood https://www.plannedparenthoodaction.org/issues/sex-education/sex-educati...

• Only 15 states in the U.S. require Sex Ed. to be medically accurate.

• 37 states mandate abstinence be included in the curriculum.  

• Only 18 states mandate birth control be mentioned in the course. 

• Only 9 states require that LGBTQ identities be presented in an affirming, safe manner, if at all. 

Moreover, sex education is not the only area in which American primary schools fall behind, through no fault of the educators. There is also a near-total lack of understanding provided to students about the way our government operates. These are not new criticisms, either. By now, American students deserve a curriculum as diverse and multi-faceted as they are. Students are practically gaslit by the American Education system’s refusal to acknowledge the grittiness of our history, rather it is dressed up and lauded in holidays like Columbus Day and Thanksgiving from elementary school onwards as a way of feeding our own country’s hegemonic centrism on the global stage. Acknowledging our past mistakes and history of bigotry and racism is not a mark of failure; it is a mark of growth and one that has always been direly overdue.  It is morally reprehensible to continue rewriting history and teaching in a way that is not reflective of the truth. Also, this retelling undermines trust in higher-learning institutions and systems of global cooperation alike because, frankly, we are not adequately taught how to understand them or the realities of the distribution of power within our own country’s government, or that of others. If I were to say one last piece about the education system it is that financial literacy is also grossly underrepresented in much the same manner as honest family planning. 

In a similar vein to financial literacy, we should begin to focus on the reallocation of profit from mega corporations towards the revitalization of our infrastructure and toward progress in the fight against climate change. These are predominant issues that will continue to permeate all aspects of society, both in domestic matters and in the horrific spill-over effects abroad. The implementation of green energy and architecture seems like a decent place to start. Parks are the lungs of cities, however, in recognition of that, we cannot suddenly tear down swathes of already underfunded residential areas to make room. I found the idea of green architecture to be both invigorating and beautiful if you take the time a look for yourself! The basic idea here is that instead of doing our best to replete plant life from cityscapes, we intertwine it and base the structure of the building around the preexisting nature. While it may appear like something straight out of a sci-fi novel gone wrong, I encourage a set of ‘fresh eyes’ on such a concept. The upkeep alone would require a whole new sector of the workforce and would increase the air quality in the underbelly of metropolitan areas.   Infrastructurally, plainly put, roads are invasive and wasteful of preexisting space, at least in the way they are currently used. To be more efficient, high powered trains and systems of public transport could drastically cut CO2 emissions if redesigned with a “green” objective in mind. This change would also create space in the job market for employees of the oil and gas industry to transition into. Especially in the United States, where we seem stuff in the belief that oil and gas will pull us out of this economic recession. We can and should outline how we use our sprawling outlay of land that we were gifted.  By now, you are probably thinking 'this all sounds great! Just one question: where would we get all this money'? This is quite a large endeavor, on its outset but in truth, it is simpler than we are led to believe. I understand the controversy held within this point, so I will try maintaining sensitive verbiage while delivering my stance as bluntly as possible. The wealthy are entirely too wealthy, and the poor are entirely too poor. This reality cannot, logically, be argued, especially in light of this pandemic. With proper legislation and roll-back measures on the top 1%, I believe those earnings can be redistributed to more important matters at hand. The money can and will be better used elsewhere. Mega-corporations and industries based in the U.S. alone already contribute to CO2 emissions by METRIC TONS. If they expect to have a planet to sell goods on in the future, they really will not have much of a choice but to adapt to the realistic limitations of our resources. Climate change is not coming, it is here, and it is not going anywhere.  medical worker takes a swab test Photo by Mufid Majnun from Unsplash

Finally, the one we have all been anticipating: healthcare. I will not spend long here as this was said by thousands of brilliant minds before my own in one simple, catchall phrase, so much so that it is one of the first lines in our Declaration of Independence under LIFE, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Healthcare and easy access to it is not a privilege but a natural right of all humans born to this planet. Ignoring impoverished and uninsured people does not make them go away; it makes them poorer, and in this case -in a global pandemic, sicker or dead.  To bring my thoughts on a new normal to a close: there is much work to be done. I did not even have the opportunity nor the word count to begin to graze the topics of activism and social change that must occur to coexist with one another. Hopefully, though, I gave some ideas worth your ponderance, and maybe even some inspiration. I certainly hope to help create a world in which we are not falling short of our capabilities but highlighting each of our strengths and differences, and I look forward to seeing how we do it on the way there.