How Corona shapes society

How Corona changes society

We’re amid a conflict that forces us to to find a balance between isolation and staying safe. Washing our hands, wearing masks and keeping a distance has become our new normal. Corona also changes how we interact with each other, how we love, and how we live.

AUDIO VERSION

Epidemics have always transformed society, whether it was the pest, cholera, HIV or polio. Epidemics are levelers. On a granular level, that is not true as having health insurance might make or break your survival in case you get sick and your living/working conditions might increase or decrease the amount of exposure.

The Corona pandemic changes all aspects of our lives.

  • How we work
  • How we live
  • How we love

We take precautions to avoid getting sick, and that changes our social interactions. Isolation takes a toll on us and creates challenges. For instance, how do you explain to your young children they can’t play with their friends?

Let’s look at challenges and opportunities as every crisis comes with opportunity.

Epidemics in recent years

It’s not the first time an epidemic changes society and forced people to take precautions, and it’s not the last time.

In 1918, the Spanish Flu terrified and killed people. American soldiers brought it to Europe, where it spread quickly towards the end of World War I.

Pest Doctor wearing a protective mask.
Picture Credit: Unknown source

The Spanish flu caused more deaths than World War I.

As a precaution, people wore face masks. They cleaned roads regularly and avoided overcrowded trams.

Success crowned the cautionary measures. After two years, the Spanish flu disappeared.

New viruses appeared:

  • The Asian flu
  • Hongkong flu
  • Russian flu

These are just a few examples. Every new epidemic calls for extra measures. In many regions of Asia, face masks are already the norm and part of everyday life.

It’s not too long ago that polio terrified people. Then came HIV, Ebola, smallpox.

HIV caused about 30 Million deaths and divided society because the biggest risk groups were minorities, such as gay people and drug addicts.

Modern medicine made vast advances, and never in the history of mankind has it been easier to share information. And misinformation, which is the biggest source of the deadly division our society is struggling with today.

Back when HIV first appeared, a few ideologists wanted to isolate HIV-positive patients.

Some parasites can control the brains of their hosts. So can false beliefs.

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Besides false beliefs, a problem with bacteria is that it’s invisible. And then there’s an incubation phase and some carriers do not experience any symptoms.

However, as long as there’s no cure, precautions to prevent the disease from spreading are the only option we have.

How is Corona shaping our society?

Emptiness

Social distancing, closed bars, cancelled events and businesses - there’s emptiness at many places formerly filled with liveliness and closeness.

New borders

After a long phase of opening up and nearly borderless possibilities, our world is getting smaller. Strict border controls, travel bans, fewer parties, travelling became a chore…

Financial hardship and insecurity is a factor that makes travelling yet more unattractive for some families.

Connection

We need closeness and connectedness. Being locked in our apartments and houses is exhausting, not just for people who live alone. Many depressive people are getting worse. If you’re feeling down, I recommend you take advantage of the offers on my primary site: AC

Politics

Epidemics are times of executive power. Justice departments, parliaments, can all take a break. What matters now are administration and regulators.

Leaders who take action will improve their reputation and standing.

Other leaders try to play the severity of the pandemic down. The reason might be that making sure of people’s survival is the very responsible of a country’s leaders. However, when there’s insecurity and the masses are dying, a government looses their basic legitimacy.

This could be why some leaders, such as Boris Johnson, trump, Jair Bolsonaro tried to minimize and downplay the true extent of danger.

Chances and outlook

The Corona pandemic exposed weaknesses in our society, our social systems, politics and even ourselves. For instance, one reason the pandemic hit us seemingly unprepared is that out of greed warnings by experts have been ignored.

Even Bill Gates warned about a situation like this back in 2015 (and ever since):

Conspiracy theorists and far-right groups thanked him by making him the subject of ridiculously abstruse ideas. Another lesson we might learn from Corona is that we NEED to invest more in education. Education of young people, old people - all people.

It is time to cut the cable and stop watching those “drama” YouTubers that kill our brain cells faster than an acid trip with their irrelevancies. And “The Housewives of Jon Doe town” that numb us down harder than a punch on the head.

We must leave our "social" media world of anonymity and pseudonyms and take a stance.

Relationships

Isolation is not only a problem for singles, but also families. The number of homicides and violent conflicts is on the rise. Many couples are not used to spending that much time together, and financial problems make the situation even more tense for many.

Casual dating has mostly become an artifact of the past. We meet fewer people and treat the ones we do meet with more care.

Every medal has two sides, and every crisis provides growth potential.

Return to “normality”

Many people expect that in a few weeks from now everything will go back to normal.

Some experts estimate it will take years to go back to “normal” I do not expect that to be the case. As of today, we do not even have a reliable date for when a vaccine will become available.

Just like since HIV our normal has changed, it will change again.

The death toll is horrible, but things could have been worse. The virus could have been even worse. Hopefully, we’ll not go back to “business as usual”, but prepare for the next pandemic.

People are adaptable creatures of habit. We’ll get used to the new normal quickly.

An opportunity for growth

Gratitude

An epidemic is an incredible opportunity to become more grateful. For our freedom, our family, our friends.

During this crisis, uncountable fellow humans supported others. They give their money, time, care, and love to help others. The wave of altruism is heart-warming.

Deeper relationships

Greed and selfishness are the ugliest features of people and societies. Many people realize now that they are following the wrong gods. This crisis provides an opportunity for them to become less selfish and to understand that maximising profits isn't the only thing that matters.

If we discover we’re someone we can’t stand being alone with, it’s an excellent time to become someone we like to be alone with if need be.

I used to write about digital vs real connection, but I think I can skip that topic as this crisis reminded us on how much we need real human connectedness and closeness.

Corona made us more humble

We rethink our values and have a newfound respect for each other. We paused on our (attempted) race to the top as it's now about life and death. While Corona is not comparable to the Black Death, it's still about life and death. Status and power lose their importance to respect, dignity and decency.

I mentioned earlier that Corona is a leveler. No matter who you are, we share the same experience and will get through this together.

Work

Some jobs might go away, new jobs will appear. Some companies will keep their work-from-home positions. Perhaps corporate offices will become something like status symbols.

It could be the end of business travel as we know it (but that's pure speculation.)

We might see a new norm around respect and trust, and coworkers might become even closer.

For those who were longing to make a change they deemed too risky, might be a good time to go for their dream.

Politics

Should we discover that our elected leaders did not address the crisis competently, we can make a change.

We could consider, at least in democracies, to elect people with expert knowledge and/or the willingness and ability to consult experts in areas where they are not.

Also, we might push for more fairness, social justice, and demand that our new beliefs turn into policy.

Society - Catalyst for change

Corona exposed weaknesses in our system that we can address and as a result become a stronger, fairer society.

A pandemic can be a catalyst for change. We're in a phase of insecurity and are more aware of the importance of our infrastructural, economical, intellectual, and social resources. For instance, the importance and value of nurses, doctors, truckers, and shop assistants for a functioning system.

Crisis is part of live.

People are supportive creatures by nature. And evolution does its thing. Let’s enjoy the ride and be as helpful of a creature as we can during our short time on earth.

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