The number of vaccinated are starting to outnumber those who are not sporting a punctured arm (or who refuse to get pricked). Very soon, if the science holds, we should see a diminishing number of outbreaks, waveless days, masks falling all over, ICU’s suddenly looking for business, and Covid becoming “yesterday’s guy.” But will it?
The predictions are that there will be parties galore, lots of kissing and hugging, and oodles of unbridled sex without masks (or with them, for those who discovered the kink during this pandemic), concerts, festivals, sports (with live audiences), and people will look for any excuse to be rid of the one common activity that united us as a species for a change – being imprisoned within the four walls of our homes for over a year. Travel is going to enjoy a renaissance, they say, while rubbing it into the noses of guys like me who exited the business during the pandemic. Cruising? Well, there will be even more ships plying the oceans, dumping their garbage everywhere, forcing us into enforced, mass-programmed tourism and entertainment experiences while extending our waistlines and clogging our arteries. Airlines will crank up their rusting machines—hoping none will sputter and die from an inactivity-induced malfunction—and fly the skies like never before, polluting us with vapour trails and noise. Restaurants and bars will be open 24/7 catching up on all the lost revenue of last year. People will stop reading books again. Books? How boring? Let’s go for some live action instead, buddy! We could go from Quietville to Freneticville in a flash. Some will go so fast—fearing the next pandemic will catch us unawares again and force us into another period of uncertainty and lockdown—that they’ll perish in the attempt. Heart attacks by the number, blown gaskets by the score.
But will we, really? I am not sure the dawn of Hedonismville will be that dramatic. This pandemic taught us that there are winners and losers, and they were not picked for being meritorious or deserving. The small guy got hammered and the big guy got fatter. And the small guy will live under the constant threat of the next pandemic, which is surely to follow. How will countries react to the next Big One? Will they be gun shy and lock everything down at the first sneeze? How far will the battle of the economists vs. the medical pundits progress? The former will guffaw that collateral damage (i.e. a few thousand deaths) could be “absorbed” as long as the economy is left humming, and the latter will scream that even one life lost is one life too many, and please don’t overload the intensive-care wards.
Will social practices and habits change? Would masks and hand washing continue in Covid-less times, like they did in Asian countries post-SARS? Would flexible lease contracts come into being so that small businesses could open and close based on fluctuating government health warnings and not have to pay fixed rent in revenue-less times? Would employment contracts also become as flexible –i.e. no work, no pay, and forget about tenure if the business has to shut down. Would governments have to get together for a global meeting to write off the massive debt accumulated at this time, or will they absorb it as the new normal? For, after all, debt is a human construct. Would a guaranteed basic income become an inevitability despite the hemming, hawing, and stalling of governments, and the complaints of right wingers who see this as nothing but an extension of the welfare state? Will the anti-maskers and anti-vaxxers go extinct? Or will we go into a collective amnesia about 2020/21 and just let the good times roll again in 2022, as if this bad dream had never happened?
Too many damned questions! Only time and human foresight (or fallibility) will tell. One thing is certain, we found a vaccine to solve this virus, but we don’t have a vaccine for the next looming crisis: Climate Change – what will we do to tackle that one?
One thing that I would like to see come out of this pandemic is the awareness among all of us, that life, liberty, and the attainment of happiness is not guaranteed, although we are free to pursue it to our heart’s content. Man proposes, but God (or Nature) will dispose whether we act responsibly or irresponsibly. Earth is a crucible of man’s foibles and the only thing you take with you when you go is the experience. So toss the dice and play the next round, and store some winning chips away for a rainy day if you will; but never fear, they too will be taken away from you when you go.
Then the frightening realization dawned: nothing will change!