Post-Covid Scenarios: Normality vs Reality

So far our cycle of Beyond the Pandemic debates at Espai Societat Oberta have covered digital rights & privacy, civil rights, digital divides and global justice. As we approach the end of this series, we moved on this week to discuss future scenarios; What will the world be like after Covid?

We invited Jordi Vaquer (Director of Global Analysis and Forecasting at Open Society Foundations) and Tania Adam (Journalist, cultural manager and founder of Radio Africa Magazine) to discuss this issue. The debate was moderated by Stéphane M. Grueso.

New normality?

We have all heard the words ‘new normality’ throughout the pandemic. The concept has itself become so normal that we have not been questioning it. Can a normality be new? What does normal mean? Both Jordi Vaquer and Tania Adam agreed that this is not a very accurate term and that we could speak of “new normalities” to make this expression more realistic.

“It’s getting out of exceptionality, that our thresholds of tolerance start to allow things to happen without us getting upset”, stated Vaquer. “I don’t like this term, I think it should be questioned […] We are living through moments of uncertainty and today’s normality may not be tomorrow’s. Now we are entering a time of change and we must be aware that there will be as many normalities as there are situations,” added Adam.

When do we start building post-Covid scenarios?

This is one of the key questions in the debate, because it imagines our possible situations and futures. Adam stated that “Freedom is going to differentiate the pre and post-Covid world. The post-Covid world is being created now and we are not doing it as citizens. The big corporations and governments are doing it”. 

“There are parties who would like to see this sense of crisis and stupor continue,” warned Vaquer. “Apocalyptic narratives lead us to stagnate as a society and to obey. They are being used to control the population and we are inheriting ways of life that will continue after the pandemic,” Adam said. Vaquer added that he doesn’t: “like the fact that we are presented with an idyllic world or a catastrophic one, because the latter helps those who want to distort the world into authoritarian thoughts”.

Has Covid passed us by?

Tant Adam com Vaquer estan d’acord en que una visió fatalista del món no ajBoth Adam and Vaquer agreed that a fatalistic view does not help. They both agreed that we must imagine a future in which we take advantage of society’s capacity for transformation, and the power of the people to confront authoritarian dynamics. Vaquer, in fact, gave the case of Brazil as an example. “There, civil society organizations have set their sights on guaranteeing a minimum vital income and have forced the political agenda to fight against Bolsonaro’s policies,” he said

And he also referred to the neighborhood networks woven or strengthened here in our neighborhoods. “We shouldn’t be fatalistic and think that when we take off our masks everything will pass. I don’t see why we should resign ourselves to what is happening in so many places. Adam added: “The Covid has in many cases been a social revolution, while it has changed everything for us. This virus has brought us to a very hard turning point and we have to start acting as a society to transform everything”.

Authoritarianism and  productivity

The debate also reflected on the health and privacy policies of both democratic and authoritarian governments. “It is not clear that democracies have done well, but there is no doubt that dictatorial countries or countries with authoritarian policies are doing worse. We have to deal with the pandemic of misinformation and hoaxes” said Vaquer.

There have also been comments about some cities opening up to urban models that are more respectful of people, or what work models we want and what models we can take as examples. “We have to start thinking that the labour market will not be the same as before. We have to put on the transformation chip and think about how we relate our way of life to work,” added Adam.

If you want to hear what else was said in the debate on geopolitics and media, don’t miss the full vídeo!

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