No Escaping the New Normal

“A pestilence isn’t a thing made to man’s measure; therefore we tell ourselves that pestilence is a mere bogy of the mind, a bad dream that will pass away” – wrote Albert Camus in “The Plague”. But it’s already clear that this “dream” will not go away soon. The COVID-19 pandemic, in this or another form, will most likely be our reality, not to say normality, for a long time. A new normality…

All other things aside, the pandemic has exposed the fragility of man and man-made civilisation. COVID-19 has changed the nature of all domains of human functioning. And the next wave of the pandemic shows that the problem is not over but people are slowly coming to terms with the existence of the virus. In many countries, businesses, schools, and higher education institutions have quickly switched to remote work and online education. The pandemic has forced us to welcome new technologies, brought us closer to the virtual world, created new ways to pursue education and work for many people, often deprived of such opportunities so far.

Many companies – in order to survive – have changed their operating models. Many jobs have come under threat, many others – have been lost. The companies that have made it through the pandemic but have found themselves in a very difficult situations, unable to operate as usual, have significantly reduced their prime costs. On the other hand, many manufacturers and service providers are coming up with flexible and crisis-resistant innovations and technological solutions, assuming that when the pandemic ends, they will help them meet the new demands and create new opportunities faster than ever. Meanwhile, what is currently real is the new normal, where work becomes hybrid or rotational. Then again – as told by Professor Janusz Filipiak, President of Comarch, in a recent interview for Business Insider: I am of the impression that in the case of Poles, the coronavirus doesn’t exist in our private life, but it does when we’re at work. We have two different standards. One for our private life, the other – for our professional setting*.

The new normal will involve a radicalisation of the media. If the leaders of the most powerful countries in the world (D. Trump, B. Johnson) have not dealt with the crisis caused by the pandemic, it will be taken advantage of by the increasingly radical media, affecting politics and politicians even more, maintaining an appearance of direct democracy and abandoning political correctness (bad immigrants, discrimination of LGBT persons). Anne Applebaum wrote in March in “The Atlantic Monthly” that the pandemic brought out the beauty and the ugliness, the evil and the good in each country it hit**. In some countries, it goes as far as to awaken the demon of autocracy: the strive to control the society through information, censorship, manipulating the pandemic. In other countries in turn – those boasting a high level of social capital, like Scandinavian countries, it emphasises the inclination and readiness of the state, employees, and employers to collaborate and cooperate***. It would be interesting to find out where Poland ranks on this scale.

* J. Filipiak in conversation with M. Kunica, Business Insider, 21 September 2020. ** A. Applebaum, Epidemics Reveal the Truth about the Societies They Hit, “The Atlantic Monthly”, 2 March 2020. *** See: N. Witoszek in the 2nd online debate of Concilium Civitas, entitled “Democracy – COVID – Future”, 16 April 2020, hosted by: J. Żakowski.

The text is part of the publication "The New Normal. Reality in the times of the global Covid-19 pandemic. A commentary by the faculty of Kozminski University".

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