Not going back to “normal”
BAR NONE - Atty. Ian Vincent Manticajon (The Freeman) - August 4, 2020 - 12:00am

I was planning to go to our still-closed office yesterday to get some overdue important documents that was mailed by a client. But I quickly changed my mind when I saw the long line of traffic toward the police checkpoint. I heard that similar chokepoints were also present at the SRP and other areas where there are checkpoints.

This indicates that most economic activities are coming back after months of strict quarantine measures. We are told that we can resume most of our essential activities as long as we observe the public health protocols of physical distancing and wearing of masks. But are we (government and people) really ready to handle ourselves carefully and make conscious decisions to prevent the resurgence of coronavirus infections?

I’m taking a cautious view. For one, the impertinence of this administration toward public advice by medical experts engenders a lack of confidence in its capability to plan out an exit strategy from this pandemic. Government does show some effort to listen, albeit with a degree of haughtiness. But the default strategy still largely rests on crude militaristic solutions, gaming the data presentation, and shaping public perception.

And then let’s admit it, many of us in the community still yearn for the regular activities we did in the past, right before this pandemic struck. As a way of coping, we talk about the ‘new normal’. But have we really taken time and effort to process its meaning in our lives?

Truth is, we haven’t, because we’re still very much attached to returning to the previous situation. We’re tied on how we can get back our lives upended by COVID-19. We long to go back to the shopping malls, attend galas, gatherings and lavish dine-ins, and don fancy clothes again. We wish to travel to other places, preferably overseas.

We also miss the trappings of success and social status that came with in-person or face-to-face engagements. We even miss the hard work and “productivity” that came in exchange for all these. Those were the days when we worked like a horse six days a week, and kept ourselves too busy to re-examine our priorities in life.

That’s the old normal in which a part of me does not want to come back, actually – even if this virus suddenly burns itself out by some miracle or work of nature. This pandemic made me realize, and I guess some people too, that our needs can still actually be met even without the trappings of a consumerist society. By “needs” I’m referring to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs: basic, psychological, and self-fulfilment needs. That we can still meet these needs without the risk of a resurgence of the virus.

The threat of the virus, and the concurrent human evils that feed on the crisis itself, test our mental and emotional endurance. But when the pandemic slowed down things, some of us were nudged into changing our priorities and reconnecting to our deeper values.

In the words of one writer and storyteller, we can “meet the tide, diving deep into the silence.” We can adjust to, adapt, and invent a new lifestyle without putting our lives and other people’s lives in danger to an invisible enemy still lurking around. Or do we want to go back to the “productivity” that will eventually kill the only planet we know that can sustain human life?

Whenever I hear talks about reviving the economy, I imagine a society scrambling to go back to its old ways of production and consumption that degenerates the planet and our humanness.

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