PHOTO: Ketut Subiyanto/ Pexels
By Dubai Abulhoul
Lenin once said that there are decades where nothing happens, and then there are weeks where decades happen. There is no doubt that COVID-19 has proven to not only be the biggest accelerator of our times, but potentially its most consequential as well. With vaccination drives well underway in different parts of the world – albeit neither in a linear nor equitable fashion – many are left to wonder whether or not we have reached the final stages of this global pandemic, and if our lives will finally go ‘back to normal’ soon.
While we may not have a definite answer or a guaranteed timeline to that inquiry thus far, several other pressing questions are yet to be fully addressed as well: how will we collectively adapt to the political, social, technological, and economic consequences that will continue to unfold over the next weeks, months, and years as a result of this tiny virus? Are adaptability and resilience simply global buzzwords of the day, or will they actually prove to be the best way forward? And perhaps most interestingly, is it really in our best interest to ‘fully’ go back to normal?
No, the world will certainly not miss the lockdowns or the social restrictions, nor do these questions intend to gloss over the massive human death toll resulting from the pandemic. We are all, no doubt, eagerly waiting for the day we declare our medical victory over COVID-19. However, we should not lose sight of the collective chance we now have to rethink – and reshape – the structures, norms, and constructs we have gotten too used to, and too comfortable with, in pre-pandemic times.
This includes, but of course is not limited to, how we learn, work, think, and communicate. It’s not an exaggeration to say that at the heart of COVID-19’s disruption lies an interesting proposal: the chance to reimagine the world as we knew it – and to adjust accordingly in return. This holds true to both the global challenges we faced before the pandemic, and also the ones that were created as a result of it.
In his latest book, ‘Ten Lessons for a Post-Pandemic World’, Fareed Zakaria attempts to outline the nature of life after COVID-19, and offers insight into what we should expect to truly be up against. Zakaria argues that the consequences of this pandemic may not change the future so much as it would accelerate it, and as a result, the world is now left to face pressing dilemmas that it previously had a number of decades, or at least a number of years, to thoroughly tackle. This includes, but is not limited to, mass job automation as a result of the AI revolution, and the emergence of mainstream bioengineering. Zakaria masterfully explains that the global community now stands at a critical threshold in history; it could either settle for slow growth, increasing natural disasters, and rising inequality, or it could act boldly in the opposite direction. His analysis makes a very compelling case for the latter.
Our pre-COVID19 world was nowhere near perfect, and so it might be wise to reconsider our rush – and willingness – to go back to business as usual. Hiding behind this once in a lifetime global crisis is also a once in a lifetime opportunity: to dream of a different world, and have the ability – and courage - to actually pursue it.
The author is an Emirati novelist-writer.
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