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Saturday, September 19, 2020
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The Brave New Post-Covid World

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IF you have been consuming your daily dose of propaganda aka news, you will have come across the phrase ‘the new normal’ by now. You might have heard some sombre newsreader or a smug politician telling you how we are entering a post-Covid world where we will have to give up our old ways and adapt to the new realities. Many have compared Covid to WW2 and just as the post-war period washed away much that was before, the post-Covid world might look very different from what we have been used to. I am not in the business of prophecy but here are some things I see on the horizon.

Of the State, by the State, for the State

We have been hearing how unprecedented this new disease is. In fact, it is so unprecedented that democratic governments around the world had to suspend basic civil liberties to keep people safe. The degree of repression varied from one country to another but ruling classes came to the near-unanimous conclusion that the crisis was so great that giving themselves dictatorial powers was perhaps the only solution. They had to ‘save lives’, no matter what it took. And so the bastions of freedom in the world turned into police states overnight. Anyone with an opinion not in line with the state was silenced or ridiculed, no matter what their qualification or expertise. Now, after months of lockdown, we have new developments to look forward to, such as government surveillance via contact tracingmandatory mask wearing and forced immunisation. 

Now that the state knows how compliant we are, the boundary of what our masters can or cannot do has moved. Countries such as the UK and Canada were already prosecuting people for saying naughty words, so punishing someone for sitting on a park bench, arranging a playdate for their kids or refusing to wear a mask doesn’t seem so far-fetched. Besides, if we want the state to be our mummy and daddy, perhaps we should get used to the idea of punishment. Would we allow our children to do whatever they want? Of course not, they might hurt themselves or someone else. They don’t know any better but we as grown-ups have the responsibility to keep them safe from the world and themselves. And that’s the ‘safe’ new world we find ourselves in now, where we are all children in need of guidance and protection from the state.

Be afraid and stay away

‘Experts’ may differ on the exact distance you should maintain from every other person; the number varies from 1 to 3 metres but they have all agreed that social distancing is essential. If you don’t do it or even question the logic of it, you might kill someone. And you don’t want to do that, do you? To avoid the possibility of an inadvertent manslaughter, states have issued specific guidelines for social distancing but they can’t expect their citizens to follow them without enforcement. So, there would be a need for social distancing police either in the form of the ‘bobby on the beat’ or drones that could reprimand people for being too close to each other. Perhaps a facial recognition system isn’t far away that can call people out by name for not maintaining a 6ft distance and fine them on the spot. However, most of the enforcement will be done by the social distancing czars, or ‘Karens’ as they are known on the internet, who have already taken it upon themselves to make sure everyone complies with the social distancing rules. Public shaming is their favoured tool as that extols their virtue while punishing you for your sin. But if that doesn’t work or you turn out to be obstinate, they won’t hesitate to call the police.

A sense of paranoia has already started to pervade society where every sneeze, every cough is like a death knell. You don’t know who might infect you with a not-so-deadly virus, so better stay away. It’s hard to say which is more virulent, Covid or the fear of it. Henceforth, there will be a new caste system separating those who follow the social distancing norms and those who don’t, the enlightened and the ignorant. Next election, someone might run on a ‘tough on social distancing’ platform. Perhaps there will be charities to ‘raise awareness’ about social distancing. Perhaps we’ll hear stories about social distance assault survivors. Perhaps there will be a new ‘me too’ movement where women will ‘call out’ men who came within 6ft. The possibilities are endless. A touch of affection, a hearty handshake, a pat on the back, a loving embrace or even a drunken brawl might become relics of the past in this brave new world.

Daylight robbery

A global recession is afoot. Unemployment rates are inching closer to the great depression levels. Enormous relief/stimulus packages have been introduced to support those who have lost their livelihoods. A number of jobs that have been lost will never come back. Many small businesses have closed their doors for ever. Governments have gone on a borrowing spree never seen before. Where is all that money going to come from, though? Most certainly not out of the pockets of the experts whose flawed modelling caused this crisis, or the politicians who in their hunger for power made themselves de facto dictators or the bureaucrats who in their arrogance thought they could ‘manage’ the economy or the news media who cheered all of this on. No, the money will come from where it always does, hardworking people trying to make a living, through taxes and austerity. Rest assured, there will be new taxes to pay for the fairy money raining from the Exchequer. But you cannot put a price tag on a human life, can you? If we have to give more of our hard-earned cash to the state, it’s for our own good. And we will in characteristic fashion get used to it.

This is not the story of a particular place. The same movie is playing on all of our screens, with different characters. The world is changing and not for the better, in my humble opinion. What else will we have to get used to? And what happens when the next Covid comes along? What will be the new normal then?

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Manish Sharma
Manish Sharma is a 32-year-old college dropout who works in IT. He lives in Bangalore, India.

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