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The corona crisis: everlasting changes?
Opinion piece by Tim Jan Rozendaal (Member of DWARS – Dutch Young Greens)
We are currently caught up in a severe crisis that has taken control of our planet. We don’t know how much longer this will take and how much more damage this will do. But despite all uncertainty, we do know that there is hope and that it can teach us a lot. In this article, I will share with you what lessons can be learned and how likely they are to last, in my view. I will focus on the social and economic dimensions and will give you a bit of insight into my personal experience.
Let’s start by saying that this crisis is deep. The more I realize what is happening, the deeper it seems to me. Essentially, it derails the modern world in its entirety and brings us back to the very base of what is most essential to being a human: survival. It is only that for the majority of humankind, myself included, survival has become so self-evident, that we have shifted our focus to other things to give meaning to our lives, of which I consider economic growth and acquiring social status through our achievements among the most important. But suddenly, these two no longer seem to matter anymore. The economy is down and plans of reopening are only nascent. Governments across the globe, with a few exceptions, recognize the importance of health over economics. The consequences are serious, but given the danger of the virus, they are worthwhile to accept. And what about status? Also, in this regard, a big transition seems to be going on. The professions that were usually the least appreciated, are now marked as ‘vital’ and seem to have become the most valued. Think of cleaners, teachers, nurses, and police officers. Suddenly we applaud for these people, instead of for the rich CEOs, the famous football players, or the movie stars. I hope that, also after the crisis, we will continue to appreciate these professions as much as they deserve.
In addition to the social and economic consequences, the crisis also hits me on a personal level and has made me aware of a lot of things. Sometimes, this can be confronting. Although it might sound a little bit cliché, I feel like I have always taken many things too much for granted. My freedom to take the train to wherever I want, to meet up with people, to play football, and to do kickboxing. Besides, it feels like I am more open and take more time to speak to people within my inner circle, even though it might be digitally. Previously, I found it hard to find time for these things. Weird, I realize now. How much we will truly learn from the crisis, both on a personal and a collective level, remains to be seen. But we should certainly not forget that in historical perspective, mankind has faced many dire situations and often came out better. The Bubonic Plague of the Middle Ages paved the way for the Renaissance, during which medicine was significantly improved. The Great Depression of 1929 led to Roosevelt’s New Deal, the foundation of the American welfare state. And after World War II, the United Nations was established, which has led to unprecedented international cooperation.
So why could this crisis not have an everlasting impact on us and our societies? In which we take small things less for granted? And in which we look after each other a bit more, appreciate the less fancy professions, and in which we care a little bit less about economic growth? I guess it is pretty much up to ourselves. Maybe this crisis is precisely what we needed to realize how much the world needs change. Let’s hope that we will all pick up on these lessons.