THE NEW NORMAL – A CHANGE FOR BETTER OR WORSE?
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In the context of civilization and the centuries that have spanned its entirety, humanity has traded out old societal norms for new ones, much like fashion tosses out old styles for new aesthetic concepts; only to re-incorporate them in a few decades time into the current norm, yet with slightly different nuances. For example, after 9/11, security at airports tightened up and as a result, impacted social norms within airports across America.
With the outbreak of the novel coronavirus late last year and through its journey around the globe, the entire planet has had to deal with a sudden conversion into a new way of collective being. The “new normal” (as it is now being referred to) comes with a whole set of new social rules that are aimed at reducing the spread of the virus and respecting the health and well-being of others.
Introducing: The New Normal
There is much speculation that the new normal is here to stay - even after the widespread implementation of a vaccine - in order to secure humanity’s position against infectious diseases. With it, there are a few changes to societal conventions that most of us have already updated into our realm of perception, including:
- Non-contact greetings
- Working from home
- Wearing a facemask to do your grocery shopping
- Smiling at everyone you meet using just your eyes
- Standing a fairly subjective distance away from others (for the sake of humanity)
- Potentially feeling like you’re constantly in an episode of House or some other equitable medical drama
While not all these changes will be around forever, some of these behavioral changes are setting the scene for a whole new social etiquette in which everyone is encouraged to think beyond themselves for the sake of our collective future. It’s a bit of a two way affair in terms of whether one should feel happy about having their personal space respected in public places, or in distress by the fact that socializing in those places will never be the same again.
The Potential Future: Speculative Side Effects of the New Normal
As most credible analysts are stating at this point, it is too early to assess what the new normal could mean for the future. The most certainty one can conclude from the current state of affairs is that humanity is at a turning point, with decisions to be made and an opportunity for change to occur on a global level.
However, there is a high likelihood that this would have occurred regardless, in spite of the pandemic. The measures put in place to control the spread of the virus highlights the already-present underlying need to tackle the current broader problems in the way society operates as a whole. Poverty, lack, violent tendencies, health, ethics, etiquette, the distribution of the economy, autonomy and many other issues could be addressed as things begin to ease into a “new normal” – a concept still being fleshed out by all as we attempt to navigate into the post-coronavirus age.
In this light, there is a discussion unfolding between everyone on the planet in which many suggestions are being made and much speculation is circulating on how the future ought to be from here on out. Articles, news reports, social media posts, official meetings amongst authorities and unofficial banter in the streets are all contributing to this collective conversation; the outcome of which is still a mystery at this point.
Certain threads of the current planetary conversation have begun to gather steam as an appeal has been brought forward to use this to propel our progress as a species. Here are a few of the potential scenarios that are being discussed at a collective level for what the future might bring.
1. Cashless Society
A cashless society is a concept that has been pushed before many times as a way to help conserve the environment by eliminating the industrial production of monetary coins and notes. The additional benefits of this concept serve the current new normal too, in the sense that it encourages contactless interactions between people.
Physical currency can be regarded as a vector for disease as just about everyone in the nation has either touched it or will inevitably at some point in time. On the other hand, it could be viewed as a beneficial mass inoculation from the collective skin microbiome of humanity. When held under the lens of a microscope, it is seen that the majority of organisms found on cash are generally neutral (if not beneficial) and found commonly in everyone’s skin microbiomes. As with all surfaces on the planet, a very dismal portion of the organisms in existence are pathogenic or harmful to us, while the rest – the vast majority - are neutral or beneficial in reality. It is no different inside the body, with a minority of pathogenic bacteria living in perfect harmony alongside trillions more probiotic bacteria in the average healthy individual .
Ultimately, adopting a cashless society, specifically for this rationale, may start to bring into question whether one should be giving gifts to others and rather instead minimizing other points of contact that require contact, like bartering. This line of logic eventually bleeds into requiring the use of robots to minimize contact points between humans in operations that require contact, such as harvesting crops, delivering or preparing food. An obvious side effect would be that millions of job positions would suddenly become obsolete for people and in order for that to be a fruitful venture, humanity would need to rise together collectively to produce an effective solution – one (or perhaps a few) in which everyone benefits.
2. The Rise of the Robots
The use of robots may start to increase if we choose to motivate our progress by the need to reduce contact points within civilization in order to help prevent the spread of infections. Robotics has already seen a surge in recent years, with many advances being made at rapid speeds. Until now, the main drive preceding the ride of robotics has been mainly to enhance the quality of life for all and the question of what will happen when robots replace humans for jobs requiring contact has been left largely unaddressed.
If robots were to replace people as a result of the new normal, millions would lose their jobs and that could usher in either a nightmare or a perfected collective dream. As with a turning point in one’s own life, humanity currently has an opportunity to co-create an amicable future outcome for all; one in which disaster can be avoided and the quality of life vastly enriched for everyone.
During the lockdown period, many office workers were and still are working from home to minimize contact with other co-workers. Those employed in other industries are less fortunate and cannot continue from home, placed on hold, while others have lost their jobs entirely. The world is in a position where - provided the right actions taken - everyone could benefit from incorporating robots into society; but it would take making an update to how society operates as a whole in order to achieve a harmonious transition into a robot-assisted civilization.
3. Medicine and Telemedicine
It’s a profundity of its own to consider that hospitals are in fact the largest vectors for disease. While it is not possible to avoid healthcare, it is now more than possible to receive it from the comfort of your own home. Advances in medicine and technology have given rise to Telemedicine, which is a form of healthcare where the healthcare professional treats the patient remotely via digital consultation.
This field of healthcare has been growing as a popular alternative to conventional medical tourism where participants can relax – either at home or in a fancy resort – and have their medical tests done then and there by a door-to-door service. Subsequently the results get ferried to the doctor who advises the patient through digital means.
Currently, this is limited to consultations and prescriptions; however, we already have cutting edge surgical robots that allow for surgeons to operate on patients remotely with far more accuracy, as though they were playing a computer game with the site of surgery displayed on a screen. The future is likely to merge the two to provide all-you-need healthcare from home, but only time will tell if this will become a reality for most people. The devices are currently very expensive and only gold-standard hospitals around the world have them, offering surgery for as much as one would expect of a top establishment.
During lockdown and various post-lockdown states, many people are making use of telemedicine to decrease the spread of the virus. Before the coronavirus saga in humanity’s history began, telemedicine was and still continues to offer healthcare to remote and rural communities who cannot access decent healthcare within their nearest vicinity. Online platforms such as Mya Care facilitate telemedicine by allowing for patients to meet with expert healthcare providers and professionals worldwide.
4. The Environmental Benefit of Travel Restrictions
Industries that rely on “non-essential” travel have potentially been the most affected with regards to lockdown, such as tourism and certain international trade of goods. In spite of the blow to the economy, the environment has had a minor break from pollution as a result of vast decreases in air travel. Noticeable effects have been observed as well due to the shutting down of factories in some areas as a result of isolating workers at home.
Travel restrictions have been slowly lifting in some countries, while others are still bound in lockdown. The new normal may still yet take to restricting travel in the spirit of reducing the chance of either international or national spread of infectious diseases.
How To Make the Most of it in Trying Times
Many are not really sure what to make of what has become of 2020 – this is likely to be synonymous with how our forefathers felt in the moments during and preceding a revolution.
The below tips may serve to be useful during trying times, such as these are for many of us.
1. Becoming Perspective-Wise and Keeping Informed
Perspective is key, especially during a time of transition. It needn’t be a time of fear and panic if one can re-invent life around them and adapt to the changes that occur with a vision for what they want and a willingness to accept circumstances as they arise. Every moment can be made into an opportunity for success and growth – or rather, for change to take place in any form (whether constructive, destructive or neutral), with our perspectives guiding its direction.
“The best way to predict the future is to create it.”
These famous words come to mind with regards to the settling of the new normal.
Quote attributed to either Abraham Lincoln or Peter Drucker.
It is not possible to have a choice for what one wants to create if one has a limited perception of the situation. Gathering information and keeping informed allows for a broader perspective that opens our options and frees up the realm of choices. In any given situation that requires us to make a decision, an important step in the decision-making process that should not be ignored is using discernment to skilfully veto our perceptions.
A fearful approach tends to have us trading out the full spectrum of possibilities for the worst possible outcome and then the decision-making process no longer becomes a choice; it instead becomes either a fight or flight response, the two choices we have available to us when in fear. This narrowing of our vision is vital when we are actually under attack, as a pure mechanism of survival. However, as ironic as this is going to sound, it’s important to be discerning in what is actually worth fearing and what perceptions are worth embracing for the sake of personal freedom; so that one can move forward into the realm of open possibility and actually have a choice in shaping the collective new normal.
2. Stand Together; Even While Apart
It is crucial for us to stand together during these times – even while a few meters apart.
On top of being discerning and keeping informed about the current situation so we can decide how to progress, the discussion between the entire human collective needs to be taken into consideration and used to shape the process. Without being able to stand together in a time of crisis; without being able to communicate openly with each other and devise strategies that take into account everyone’s needs, then there is no true way to forge a future path that is harmonious for everyone.
Change begins at the localized level, radiating outward until it generates enough steam to become a global meme and suddenly becomes an integrated part of life. It’s interesting to ponder the 100 monkey effect in these times, where one monkey learns something and before long, the rest of them have flawlessly adopted what the one had naturally picked up. Being such similar genetic relatives, it is not far from the truth for humans too.
Where there is an act of kindness, it tends to give rise to another act of kindness in others and the same can be said for acts of aggression, a fearful action, a lack of action, or any other action one can imagine. If one is conscious about what action one takes as well as the perception guiding the process, one can institute positive change and have an indirect (usually unprecedented) effect on those around them. If even just a few of us opened up our own individual scope of possibility by becoming informed and discerning of our perceptions and limitations, it will make it easier for others around us to do the same and to make a positive contribution toward shaping the collective new normal.
3. Support Your Fellow Human Being
Pressure is mounting for society from multiple avenues, many of which are separate from the stress of having to accommodate to such a rapid change to conventional norms.
As previously mentioned, the coronavirus pandemic highlights several pitfalls within society and a change as dramatic was likely to occur anyway on the path humanity was choosing to tread. While the pressures rise for many of us, it is easy to turn people in need away for the sake of self-preservation, yet this is counterproductive as we all depend on one another at a very basic level for survival. The moment we feel divided, we feel fearful because we entertain the possibility that life no longer supports us. All of us are life and we all support each other, whether it is seen directly through small acts of kindness or not seen at all and experienced through the daily efforts of the street sweeper, the janitor, the nurse, the farmer and everything other role pictured within society at large.
Division - particularly born of fear, greed, hatred, anger, insecurity and other negative perceptions - is thus not in line with creating a collective new normal in which everyone benefits equally and in which all needs are met. This is the time that we need to band together in order to facilitate a positive reinvention of the world around us and to remind everyone that none of us are alone; this is our future and we are in this together.
4. Bio-Hacks for Dealing with Transition Stress
If you are having difficulty making sense of this time of transition due to physiological stress, then here are a few bio-hacks that you can include in your daily routine to regulate stress chemicals in the body:
- Consume a diet that is richer in polyphenols. Polyphenols are the group of natural compounds found in plants that are responsible for the flavor, color and smell. Transiently improving our resilience to stress appears to be a common trait of most polyphenols, with some having more potent calming properties. Examples of foods that are high in polyphenols include raw cacao, green tea and all other teas, blueberries and all other dark-skinned berries, fruit, bitter green herbs and wildflowers.
- Focus on getting better sleep. Getting a good 7-9hours each night if you are an adult, or at least 6hours for an elderly individual, is important not only for feeling refreshed, happy and healthy on a daily basis but is required to keep stress levels in check. Minimizing light in the hour before bed and drinking chamomile tea during that time can help to unwind for those who battle to fall asleep or who find their sleep is interrupted, however it may take a few days to produce any noticeable effects.
- Include exercise in your routine, particularly if you are home bound or lead a sedentary lifestyle. Frequent exercise has been shown to increase our resilience to stress and help us better deal with it. Exercise that raises the heart rate and gets your blood pumping, as well as resistance exercise, are two particularly important forms to consider for optimal health provided they are carried out in moderation.
- Dispense with fearful narratives and be mindful of your involvement in settling the new normal. If you find it difficult to be mindful in the midst of fearful narratives – the likes of which litter the media every day – know that you are not alone. While it is important to remain informed and to connect digitally with those you care about who may not be with you, it is equally as important to restrict the time spent indulging in fearful perceptions. Journaling, meditating on the current state of affairs and discussing ideas with others to get fresh understandings can help us to remain open to possibilities, and to remind ourselves not to let fear restrict the scope of perception down to a mere fight or flight selection.
The response to the coronavirus pandemic of 2020 has leveled the playing field in such a way that the current state of affairs is likely never to return to normal – “normal” in the sense that it is different to the old way of convention in a number of ways that impact the global human collective.
Ushering in a new normal is not a new concept, as we have seen during other equally pivotal moments during history and humans have made similar conversions many times before through trial, error, sticking together and perseverance. While it is impossible to say what the new normal could be at this point, everyone has a role to play in helping to cement it into reality and bring forth a new status quo; which could be a repeat of our past or a bold step toward a new, brighter future.
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