Covid-19 – to give its proper name – has closed down the world. In fact, some of the commentary around us 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. But this strange time we live in is revealing some things I’d like to keep.
Starting with this…
The growing imbalance over the past decade or three was something I grew to despise. Huge sums of money were being paid to people who danced in society’s spotlight in terms of visibility, but were on the sidelines when it came to the value they offered to us all.
Sports starts. I get it. Their sports generate huge incomes, so they’re entitled to a proportion of what they’ve helped generate. The NFL in the USA earned $8.1 billion in income in 2019, so a leading quarterback like Russell Wilson can get $53 million for his contribution to that mountain of cash. And basketballers, baseballers … whoever. They were paid what they were worth to the game.
Actors. I get that as well. Avengers: End Game made the equivalent of a small country’s GDP so Robert Downey Jr’s $55 million paycheck was justifiable. People like RDJ were paid what they were worth to the ticket booth.
(Professional celebrities I never understood. Our society BCV (Before Corona Virus) had reached a point where the circular reasoning of being famous for being famous actually made sense. Apparently.)
But BCV these folks sat in the pecking order several full ladders-worth of rungs above everyone else. What they said carried weight. Sold products. Moved units. Took up screen time. And they were lauded for just being. My issue with that time BCV was more than the fact these people were lauded; it was that the footballer/actor/professional celebrity was celebrated as society’s heroes.
At the crux of my issue in that time BCV is that those people who actually provided value to our society were, compared to those who were called heroes, massively underpaid. They were overlooked, overworked and underappreciated.
In a Covid-19 world, we’re seeing people who have always been the real heroes of our society – health workers, paramedics, teachers, child care workers, delivery drivers, supermarket workers – suddenly getting attention. And thanks.
This is happening at the same time that the sports stars of our time aren’t filling our screens every day. Movie stars are reduced to heartfelt social media videos that appear in the same channels as everyone else. This empty social space in our society is being filled more and more with society’s thanks for our health workers for caring for our health, teachers for caring for our kids, delivery drivers for caring for our needs and supermarket workers for caring for our on-going appetite. Italy is standing and applauding its health workers from the balconies. Canada is banging their pots and pans to celebrate them. Even the English – a nation for whom a half-raised eyebrow is an emotional overreaction – are cheering these new heroes.
It’s heartwarming to see this change. It’s a long way from where it could be, but I like the direction it’s heading. I love the fact it’s happening at all. I don’t know that we ever would have seen it without something extraordinary like the time we’re in – a disruptive event with the speed of a sudden snowglobe shake and with the same impatient waiting for the pieces to settle.
But we’re seeing it. It’s a very good start and in the new normal, I’d like for it to stay.