• Flux Magazine

COVID-19 Return to Normalcy: Was this Really Devolution?" by Luke Gover

Almost as soon as the COVID-19 pandemic firmly gripped the day-to-day lives of people around the world, regardless of their race, class, gender, or any of the common social strata, people spoke of a return to normalcy. This was left up to the almighty curve, which was to decide the fate of whether students/professors/teachers could go back to an in-person setting, consumers and workers could take off their masks, and people could shake hands once again. The only thing missing was the kumbaya circle where disease altogether was defeated once and for all. Precisely that is what I have a gripe with, and why I felt the need to discuss a new normal instead of a return to what was considered normal. Unfortunately, COVID-19 and disease as a whole will not go away, and deaths at this rate are not uncommon. Just for example, about 38,000 people die in the United States each year from car accidents, an additional 4 million are hospitalized. According to the CDC, “Cigarette smoking is responsible for more than 480,000 deaths per year in the United States, including more than 41,000 deaths resulting from secondhand smoke exposure.” Meanwhile so far about 96,000 people have died from COVID-19 in the United States, keeping in mind that these counts have blaring inaccuracies. Although whether this virus is a serious threat is not the point of this article, the point is we likely have entered a stage in humanity that marks a step forward instead of stalled progress. 

Globalization, perhaps one of the hottest, most recent buzz words in the Political Science community; it describes a process in which firms, governments, or other groups gradually expand their influence and presence globally. The process itself is complex and contains a multitude of factors such as technology or policy. In general, increased multilateral trade resembles increased globalization, and protectionists movements resemble the opposite. Traditionally as technology was put in place to rapidly increase communication around the world, we saw much more trade with partners that otherwise were never able to be reached. Nowadays an item sitting in a warehouse in China can be at your front door within days for a low, affordable fee. It is my belief that this pandemic has simply tested our worldwide infrastructure and the ability of people to communicate without ever seeing each other. 

Personally, I’ve known about Zoom (an application for wireless video calls) for years, but I was reluctant to utilize it because it lacked support from employers, teachers, and peers. Now that these cohorts are all forced to use some sort of wireless interface for communication, I have come to enjoy them more than before. As for lectures, online courses have always carried a stigma for being of lesser quality, except now that I have experienced it for half a semester I’d argue in some ways they’re better. I have the ability to record the lecture and review the material in a manner that does not lose information (as opposed to me keeping up with an educator speeding through new material as I scrawl half legible notes). As for my job, we had all our staff meetings via Zoom, and I don’t believe it lost an ounce of content or quality. A few of my friends even managed to work from home, which proved that their employers had little/no reason to force them to commute in the first place. I’ve downloaded plenty of food-related applications during this pandemic in order to pick up at the door. Amazon has been delivering food for quite some time, grocery starts have had e carts for pickup for years as well. None of these ideas were brand new or not practical during the pandemics panic, all they needed was a solid push. 

Essentially, this is what I am speaking of when I say the new normal, and how the COVID-19 pandemic marked progress in globalization instead of impeding it. The delivery industry is experiencing a boom, and while that is likely going to be drawn back a little as states open up, it probably will never return to its “normal” rate. Get used to more empty stores as people stay home and get their food brought to them. The roads may remain more vacant due to workers spending more time on a laptop from home. A couple alumni to Sonoma State University spoke on the topic: 

Question: How have you enjoyed the changes made due to the pandemic? Specifically how interactions are less personal and more reliant on the internet/phone?

Riley Lewis: “I personally would much prefer to conduct interviews and such in person. It’s really difficult to rely on internet connection, mic quality, and all of that. It’s much easier and much better quality when it’s in person, and that’s what I prefer anyway. It’s a better energy.”

Ben Schultz: “I haven't minded (as much as others) interacting with people virtually. I’m not a fan of online classes but my school is actually planning to open for the fall. The worst part of this is not being able to find a political job because campaigns have moved all online”

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