OPINION | NEW WORLD, NEW NORMALCY
Written by Taofeek Ogunperi
It is without doubt that the world, as we knew and lived in it prior to the outbreak of COVID-19, will not completely be the same, post-Coronavirus. COVID-19 has caused radical effects and changes the world over: from sports, education, business undertakings, government dealings, and more, authorities have had to rework their strategies and means, ditto individuals. This is a development gaining currency because of the unavailability of the much sought after silver lining on the plague. Life continues, with difficulty nonetheless. As the world gradually reopens, serving both as items of awakening and tempo makers, the experiences being gathered in the latest human struggle against extinction are shaping out our world in new ways.
With the lockdown came the need to shift majority of human interactions to the virtual space. The internet consequently became major human space. For instance, Zoom, an easy-to-use videoconferencing application, is the latest major go to medium for governments, organizations and private individuals. The platform makes it easy for these bodies to monitor the pandemic as it affects them and those they represent. Also, social media such as Instagram and WhatsApp as well as YouTube are being used for virtual classes, webinars and entertainment skits, more than ever before. Television, radio stations and school websites have also served as avenues for teaching. This period has seen video games gain more interests. This has made them alternatives for normal sports events, as bodies like UEFA, FIFA, others make major decisions. In arts, literary events, discussions, award ceremony which should hold physically are being held online. The pandemic, in fact, informed the creation of Afrolit Sans Frontieres, an online literary festival for writers of African origin. Although what we can obviously see now is how long and how much the world will balance between these new realities, one thing is sure: the virtual space has asserted more importance on human engagements.
In addition, the pandemic has put questions on globalization and diplomacy. COVID-19, although comes as a threat against humanity, means of stemming its tides have been less and less of a global effort; at best, international organizations like WHO, EU, AfDB have only served as agents of empowerment for individual countries. In Africa, Madagascar Cure tends to have earned a strong reputation, as various African countries have continued to patronize the herb, despite WHO's caution against usage of vaccines it has not approved for the treatment of the virus. This has also made more intense the discussion on the need for Africa to be more self-dependent. With the politics surrounding the positions of Director-General of World Trade Organization and President of African Development Bank, it is definitely a time for reexamination of international relations for a country like Nigeria. WHO's role as an international organization has also come under attacks. President of Madagascar has claimed that the herb made in his country to combat the novel disease has not been favored by WHO because it is from Africa; President Trump has also faulted WHO on some occasions and withdrawn his country from the organization as it continues to suffer greatly. Relationship between US and China has also gone awry. China, the origin of the disease, has long saved itself from it but there have been calls for and demands that the country takes up some global financial responsibilities.
Coronavirus brought with it economic difficulties. In fact, many countries of the world have gone into recession; some are only hanging on by a thin line. Businesses are closed, some are running through another means (such as mentioned above) which have required difficult adjustments, some are running partially. With the lockdowns, there has been no or limited movements between countries. Economies of third world countries have especially been more hit. Overdependence on imports has not paid off. For such countries, now and beyond, the primacy of economic prosperity lies in local production and patronage. The ridiculous drop in petrol price in the international market is a major setback for a country like Nigeria, for instance. COVID-19 is, thus, an eye opener to the need to propel exports trade over imports, the importance of increased patronage of locally made products and the attraction of more foreign direct investments in local industries.
Cultural reinvigoration is also one of the results of this pandemic. Social needs have suffered in the absence of a vaccine - distancing, use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs), use of handwashing machines and sanitizers are current sacrosanct practices. It is hard, if not impossible, to imagine that, sans COVID-19 lockdown, traces of these measures will ever leave even when there are vaccines to cure the disease. One lesson to take away from this virus is that truly health is wealth, and no matter how poor a person is, this wealth is something they can create. Also, as the world looks out for itself to avert more health crisis, global warming, various forms of environmental pollution are likely to attract attention. With such attention, it is a given that human actions contributing to the problems will be checked, paving way for bettered culture and a healthier world.
In the middle of the crisis is the individual; a life threatened and put on hold by the virus. This period, being a reality better imagined than lived through, is a defining moment for many people. There has been mass job losses, financial and mental struggles. It is more like a daydream to have to wake up confined in one's room, one's house; to be considered a criminal for leaving home; to have to sit out long days, unable to tell Sunday from Monday; to have to long for one's fundamental human right while keeping counts of the dead and the infected humans. Beyond COVID-19, it may not be a surprise to see people with more heightened consciousness about the world as it concerns them. One can clearly see, in the historical reactions and protests following the murder of George Floyd in the US for example, that there are indeed common pains and hurts that transcend borders such that the world is only one entity; that such fights are as of individual concerns as they are societal, sans popular biases. This is the same for COVID-19.
COVID-19 at once puts the world in a position where life is only safe in the distance. In the race to defeat the plague that it is, the world shifts into a newness, a new normal - old ways modified and new ones created to keep life going on. In all of this, global, national and individual human relationships are reexamined.