Some of the commentary around this global virus – Covid-19, to give its proper name – suggests that our lives will never be the same again. We may even lose some things we’d taken for granted as everyday. The other phrase that is kicked around the media airwaves is “the new normal”. What our society will look like on the other side of this pandemic is still – in some senses – a blank canvas.
I was thinking about those two things and thought “good.”
There are some things that might benefit our society if they’re never seen again. And whatever we decide is our “new” normal, I hope there are some things from our “old” normal that don’t return. So there are a few things I hope are killed by this global virus, or are at the very least dented by a pandemic to the point we rethink them.
Starting with …
The people-focussed part of me found it excruciating to hear Government after Government around the world frame the early discussion about Covid-19 around the need to protect economies. That growth must be preserved. That arguments about human life should be always measured against the yardstick of money.
Look, I get it.
Consumerism is not just entrenched in our modern society, it’s the bedrock of it. Money is the oil of the global machine and its constant flow requires people to feel they’re missing something. This desire to consume drives everything, and the drive to want more kept the whole house of cards upright as we reached for the sky by adding more and more layers of cards. The structure was sturdy … or so we thought. As we’ve seen in the past month, the house of cards was very, very fragile and a slight cough from a province in China blew it over.
What this constant drive for growth and consumerism has done is redefined the word need for people. They’ve been gradually worn down over time to believe they need something when in actual fact they simply want it.
Now that we’re in lockdown and told to stay away from the shops, I hope that break – however small – starts a process within people of not needing to go to the shops. I hope some people realise what they’ve got on their pantry shelves will likely last them longer than they thought. I hope they realise they don’t need a twentieth pair of shoes or a third car. I hope they look around at what they have and realise it might be better than what they don’t. I hope that a non-visit to a mall to upgrade a phone is lost on many until the point they realise it’s not the necessity they might have thought it was.
Now that everyone’s somewhat sheltered from the clutches of the retail and advertising sectors, it’s my hope that we can kick-start something that may have been there generations ago. BCV (Before Corona Virus) we would often look back on the sepia days of our grandparents’ childhood and almost pity the fact they only had a stick or one loose tyre around which to build playtime. But they did, and they had something that I’m not sure our generations had.
They weren’t always wondering if life would be better if their stick was bigger or had racing stripes. Their happiness didn’t seem to be guided by the size of the tyre. They had contentment, which is the natural enemy of consumerism.
So it’s my deep hope that people’s contentment is reawakened as our society sits in isolation from “stuff”. That they find contentment or security with people and not products. That when this is all over the retail sector isn’t allowed to simply go back to bringing people down in order to sell stuff they probably don’t need. That the ads will restart and some people’s response will be “that’s nice, but I don’t actually need it.” Here in Australia I think that might be forced on many people because they’ll be embracing a “new normal” without a job, and the disposable income they thought they once had.
And I truly hope for people that this time away from “stuff” will also get them to reconnect with things that might strike a chord deep within them. Something like, I don’t know … purpose? Something that isn’t fleeting, that isn’t a short-term sugar rush designed to fade quickly enough to make you go buy something else.
So I sincerely hope consumerism is a casualty of the global virus, and it’s replaced by a search for something deeper.