Let’s Design the New Normal Now
4. November 2020 • By Roman H. Schmid
It’s been about a year since COVID-19 started to spread all over the world. Since then, countless conversations have been started around the nature of the disease and its virulence. Some say it’s dangerous; others argue we’re fighting against a flu-like disease and that there’s no need for containment. Whichever end of the spectrum you stand on: Let’s not exhaust ourselves trying to answer questions that we as citizens cannot answer, while the REAL impact and potential of COVID-19′ on our current and future lays somewhere different.
It’s time to unplug from the constant flow of (bad) news and start listening deeply to what this situation actually offers us as human beings. It’s time that we tap into our collective intuition to find answers to the uncomfortable questions nobody is asking.
Below we find a collection of questions that are, in our opinion, missing in the current COVID-19 conversation.
1) What does it mean when suddenly all paradigms (and lies) that were built to keep our growth economy alive suddenly fall?
The COVID-19 crisis sheds light on the unsustainability of our current growth economy. The status quo isn’t working, not for the people who run in a hamster wheel until exhaustion, not for our abused and depleted planet, and of course not in a world that is always more interconnected, interdependent, and highly vulnerable. Eventually, whether some people will like it or not, the status quo will break.
Why don’t we choose to now step out of this hamster wheel instead? How could alternative pathways to our current growth economic system look like?
2) What does it mean when suddenly all paradigms (and lies) around environmental change and its unstoppable nature suddenly fall?
It’s been less than a year since our governments rolled out measures to stop the spread of COVID-19. Since then, the positive impact on the environment of living slower lives has been evident. With this in mind: Who still seriously wants to argue that it would not be possible to stop and change environmental damage if we really wanted to? Has it occurred to us that COVID-19 might be a “hint” from mother nature (much like the plague or others have been) that we can’t go on overexploiting our planet and its resources? Could it be a loving sign from our planet to witness how much positive change is possible in such a short period of time and with comparably so little effort?
3) Now that we have realized we can live with less (less hassle, fewer meetings, less availability of goods, fewer distractions & entertainment), how will we include this wisdom into our post-COVID-19 lives?
From the moment the containment measures were rolled out in our respective countries, we experienced less comfort in every area of our lives. Suddenly, we couldn’t buy whatever we wanted, whenever we wanted. We couldn’t run our businesses like in a hamster wheel, running from meeting to meeting and client to client to create more revenues, barely stopping to catch our breath. We couldn’t distract ourselves with consumer goods or entertainment as easily as before. We couldn’t do many of the things we were so used to doing every day of our lives. And yet we survived. Some of us might even say we are happier than ever before.
What does this mean about our pursuit for ‘more’? More money, more entertainment, more stuff to buy, more people to see, more ways to run away from the truths of our lives. Could it bring something positive to our lives to stop and breathe? Would we live healthier, happier lives if we would drop our pursuit for ‘more’?
4) What lessons have we learned about taking care of our health?
Most people have started to realize just how vulnerable we are as human beings and how precious our health is. But, besides washing our hands and carrying hand sanitizer in our pocket, what else can we do to protect our health?
Chronic diseases are a big topic of conversation these days, as many of the men and women dying of COVID-19 have them. Nobody is talking about the fact that many chronic diseases result from the unhealthy lifestyles we lead to keep the status quo going. If this is true, why not step out of the status quo?
When will we start using nutrition, movement and sleep as a way to stay healthy in the long run and prevent getting sick?
When will we start paying our bodies the respect and attention they deserve?
Could self-love and self-care become our new paradigm for health?
5) How do the experiences of solidarity witnessed over the past year make us feel about our own lives and our relationships with others? And what does living (more) locally mean?
Over the past year, thousands of initiatives have been created out of thin air to help others make it through the crisis, financially and health-wise. We have witnessed so many scenes of solidarity, many of them small yet touching, others heroic. Thousands of people (who didn’t previously think of themselves as altruistic) have invested their time, energy, and money to offer other people help and support through this time.
What does this teach us about our relationships with others? Is there a new “age of connection” or a new “age of community” coming, and would we not all very much look forward to that? Could COVID-19 open our hearts and minds to new, more kind ways to connect to our communities?
Is it really still possible/necessary/desirable to continue living our individual lives without barely connecting to each other? What will friendships, community, and family mean to us after this crisis? What new ways will we find to relate to each other once it’s over?
What does this mean for Switzerland’s privacy and ‘save yourself first’ culture, and how will/ can this change Swiss society for the better?
Speaking of communities, for the year, we have all been living and moving in small circles that don’t go much beyond our neighborhoods and local towns. What does this experience do with us? Could this foster a new trend to have a more local lifestyle, which would give our lives more meaning and again help the global fight against climate change?
6) What chances and risks for confederal states like Germany or Switzerland have been brought to light by COVID-19?
Questions like “what’s the role of democracy in times of crisis, what individual rights should always be protected and how can crowd-intelligence and solidarity better be used?” and ‘who’s responsible that our health systems are up and running in times of crisis?” or “who’s responsible that citizens are well informed when the media no longer takes their role seriously?’ need to be asked – among many more questions in that specific field…
7) What does COVID-19 teach us about globalization and interdependencies among countries? Could there be a new model for nations to position themselves in the context of globalization?
We need to finally find a more sophisticated and (especially) more responsible & sustainable answer than the Comparative Advantage Definition by David Ricardo (1817!). In a country like Switzerland, for instance, we need to ask ourselves: ‘what core functions, skills, and assets can never be outsourced to another country, even if outsourcing saves high costs?’ or ‘how can we build true partnerships (not interdependent trade relationships) between nations that are strong enough to carry us through moments of crisis?’. The Swiss healthcare system, for example, is highly dependent on the Italian workforce commuting from Italy every day. This has significantly challenged Switzerland’s capacity to respond to the COVID-19 crisis in Switzerland. Would there be a better, crisis-proof way to manage such a vital aspect of our country? What other areas are there to think of different approaches towards “smart nationalism” or “smart globalization”?