There's no 'new normal' until we transform
There is nothing normal about the health and socioeconomic crises the world is experiencing.
From traditional news op-eds to casual social media posts everywhere, we come across people who are discussing a ‘new normal.' This attempt to normalize these global ongoing traumatic experiences is reducing catastrophe to buzzwords. Over 11 million people have lost their lives to coronavirus complications, Google reported. Those with the privilege of being safely stationed in their homes have the leisure of contemplating this new way of life, while homeless families and those without medical care and other resources continue to suffer the most.
Losing the ability to put food on the table is not normal
Small businesses that were forced to close down had their entire lives upturned with nowhere to go. According to Yelp, more than 100,000 small businesses in the United States have permanently closed since the coronavirus shutdown began in March.
Patrice Graham, the founder of Colors of Yoga in Raleigh, North Carolina told CNBC, “I’m worried every single day. No matter what I do, I’m going to be anxious and worried about [whether] the yoga studio will survive.”
Small businesses throughout our cities and communities are one of the biggest sources of local employment opportunities. Allowing for small businesses and entrepreneurs to crumble is cutting off many of the region’s major social and economic lifelines.
There’s nothing normal about the world being led into a recession and countries watching as civil liberties are diminished because human lives and human rights are not being prioritized.
Offices are cutting their losses at workers’ expense
Small businesses aren’t alone. Even larger companies have seen dramatic drops in revenue, pushing them to fire many of their employees.
Dot.LA, a Los Angeles-based tech magazine, reported, Bird, a Santa Monica-based scooter rental company abruptly fired 406 employees on a mysterious zoom call. "It felt like a Black Mirror episode,” recalled an employee.
“Pretty much everybody I worked with was let go," another employee added.
Bird’s inability to continuing supporting its employees is not an isolated phenomenon. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that unemployed Americans dropped from 1 million to 12.6 million within 2020.
Coronavirus continues to expose racial disparities, health inequities, and debilitating economic mobility. These systemic barriers to equity are becoming more and more apparent as Black people and other people of color continue to be impacted the worse and supported the least.
"As far as I know, the folks that are left from my immediate team consist of all men, most of whom are white," Jenny Li Alvauaje Howard, a former data scientist at Bird wrote in a blog post.
Despite 36.5 million people filing for unemployment, the abrupt halt to life as we know it is being experienced globally by everyone.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that people of color, especially women of color, are being hurt the worse because companies are unfairly firing them first.
According to the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC), the number of women who lost their jobs last month is far greater than the 11.1 million jobs women gained between the end of the Great Recession in 2009, and when the coronavirus pandemic reaching the United States in February. “Last month’s shattering job losses make [it] clear that women are in the bullseye of this pandemic,” said Emily Martin, Vice President for education and workplace justice at NWLC, in a statement.
“In leisure, hospitality, education, health care and retail — the sectors that are getting hit the hardest — women are the ones who are falling victim to the first massive waves of this economic crisis,” Martin continued.
She noted “first,” meaning there is more havoc to come. This is only the beginning of these crises because coronavirus cases continue to rise, while people around the world have been left unequipped to fight for their lives — this is not normal.
There is nothing normal about any of this, so why do we insist on calling it so?
Psychologists see it as a coping mechanism to deal with rapid lifestyle changes. We have strayed so far away from what we consider normal, so we have started labeling the chaos as ‘normal’, to bring some semblance of homeostasis or normality.
But will changing our words really make a difference?
“The language we employ matters. It helps to shape and reinforce our understanding of the world and the ways in which we choose to approach it. The analytic frame embodied by the persistent discussion of the 'new normal' helps bring order to our current turbulence…” wrote Chime Asonye in World Economic Forum.
However, this framing can be problematic. Romanticizing trauma nudges us into believing that everything is okay, that there is nothing to worry about. This inhibits our healing and can reduce the will to form solutions.
According to Asonye, this attempt to generalize real-life issues constrains our ability to think expansively about ways we can fundamentally transform society.
The fallout from this pandemic has given the world a chance to rebuild societies better, with more efficiency and more inclusivity.
“We should revel in the discomfort of the current moment to generate a 'new paradigm', not a 'new normal',” said Asonye.
“Feeling unsettled, destabilized and alone can help us empathize with individuals who have faced systematic exclusions long-ignored by society even before the rise of COVID-19 — thus stimulating urgent action to improve their condition. For these communities, things have never been 'normal',” he concluded.
Comment Below: Where are you in the world? How have your communities been impacted? And what changes would you like to see?