It seems that there are two schools of thought these strange days, those that want to go back to the way things were and those who want to adapt to the new normal. What if there was a third, independent school of thought that posed the question, “How can we do things better?”
Of course, it is a dangerous notion at a time when people want certainty and not more of the unknown. It also opens a pandora box. Work, politics, parenting, education, logistics, religion and everything and nothing in between. Some businesses have adapted, others survived, many, unfortunately, could not. Many politicians have shown their true colors, most have shown nothing. Parents, those lucky enough to have computers and an Internet connection, have had to learn a new way to teach their children. Getting from point A to point B has become a herculean affair. The faith of Believers has been tested, whereas others never waivered. One thing is for sure, the true nature of human beings is always exposed during times of crisis, as too is their short-term memory.
Tomorrow, Italians will be allowed to venture out into their cities with little or no restrictions other than a mask, but really only if inside, and social distancing, when possible. Don’t forget that in Italy, every question is met with the same answer: “That depends…”
This weekend was a taste of what this will look like, as many in Rome walked around with masks anywhere, but on their face and social distancing already a thing of the past. Hugs and kisses between friends, teenagers making out behind trees, groups of children playing tag, groups of “nonni” laughing together while sitting on park benches and I even saw a 5-on-5 pick-up game in the park.
There is nothing “new” and everything “normal” about tomorrow. Italians, more than any other population, suffer from acute nostalgia and they are reminiscing about the days before the pandemic, eager to use their return to freedom to pick up exactly where they left off – the last few months of lockdown completely wiped from their collective memory.
Everyone was so busy singing the national anthem, baking bread, learning to play guitar and doing yoga online, that they forgot to think – What’s next?
Are we ready for a second wave? Do our healthcare workers have the resources to ensure this does not happen again or do we all believe that clapping at 6pm and saying “thank you” is really enough? Are we more aware of our neighborhoods and small businesses that need our help now or will we forget our local activism? Will we be kinder to each other and more patient with one another? How can we do things better than before?
Maybe we can’t. Maybe we don’t want to. Maybe we liked things the way they were. The problem is, most of us have already forgotten the questions I just asked.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot, even though in Australia we have not been in absolute lockdown, just self isolation. People have been great, doing exactly as they were asked to do in order to quickly flatten the curve. I was excited at the prospect of better days, of a new and better life. However, I never quite believed it, no matter how positive I tried to be. I couldn’t see how a few months of sacrifice could result in our entrenched way of life being uprooted and repositioned. At the centre of our world are globalisation, the economy, personal financial issues and reliance on certain industries, such as tourism change very difficult to achieve, or to even hope for.
Absolutely, it’s a hard question to ask and one that falls on collectively deaf ears. I am quite the cynic and have exactly the same nagging doubts that you’ve expressed. I don’t believe that things will change, nor that we’ve learned anything in these past months, but I like to think that hope is still trapped at the bottom of Pandoras box.