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I hope we don't go "back to normal"

As this strange Corona-crisis period of our lives unfolds, I've heard the phrase, "once this is all over", or "once things are back to normal" multiple times. I've said it myself. I've heard other people saying it. It makes sense, we all want to see our friends and families again. We want to go to uni, to cafes, to bars, festivals. We miss and we crave physical contact - at least I know I do.

This phrase, “back to normal", has been stuck in my head. Of course, I want this crisis to be over. Still, the longer the crisis goes on, the more I realize I don't want things to go back to normal. "Normal" is the world that made this crisis to be as big as it is. It was our "normal" world that created a healthcare system which was fundamentally unprepared to deal with a crisis. Now we are applauding people working on the front lines, in hospitals, day-cares and elderly homes - when less than a year ago they were striking because of bad working conditions, overwork and low pay.

The Netherlands is not even the worst. “Normal” is also a world in which the virus will ravage through communities that don’t have access to healthcare or don’t have the possibility to isolate themselves. Think of refugee camps, slums, or communities that have lost their homes due to natural disasters or war. These problems didn’t just suddenly arise because of Corona: they were already problems. Now, they just have become much, much larger.

What this crisis does very well is point out the flaws that were already present in our world. Corona isn't an external thing that has made our societies and economies spiral into crisis, it is not a foreign entity against which we can go to "war" like some politicians say. I think the current crisis is just a very painful demonstration of what was wrong with "normal". It is also “normal” to travel around the world, for business and for leisure - which has led to the virus eventually spreading to every country of the globe so quickly.

A lot of us have also seen hopeful messages circulate in these times. Apparently, the cloud of pollution over China has almost disappeared because of the lockdown. Fish finally swim in the canals of Venice again now that the tourists are gone. We can hear the birds again. We take walks in nature. We see so many different ways in which people help each other. Even governments have implemented policies and taken actions that seemed impossible only weeks ago. Especially the speed with which these policies were implemented and the extent to which they reach is something we didn’t believe could happen.

Once the lockdown lifts, I hope these things continue. I hope we start to value those that perform the “fundamental” jobs in our society. I hope we don’t go back to normal and book our flights around the world - undoing any decrease in CO2 emissions we might have had. So of course, take care of yourself during this strange time and look forward to all of the things you will be able to do once the crisis is under control.But let’s also think about the ways in which the world could be better after the crisis. This is our opportunity to make a new normal - a better normal.

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