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July 31, 2020

Post-Covid society

Opinion

July 31, 2020

It is increasingly becoming clear that the post-Covid-19 world will be profoundly different from what humanity has been accustomed to for centuries.

Geopolitics, economics, and the social order will undergo a visible change with huge dividends for some countries and unbearable losses for others – depending on how long the current crisis persists. The social landscape has already changed in both developed and developing countries but people in general have yet to fully grasp the scale and scope of change let alone its pace and impact on their individual and collective lives.

One of the legacies of Covid-19 seems to be an environment of constant fear caused by disinformation and rumours circulated on social media. Even after mass vaccination, many people will be scared of public interaction and traveling.

The industries worst hit by the pandemic today – hospitality, air travel, and tourism – will suffer more in the days to come before public trust is fully restored. This may not be the case in countries like Pakistan where most people believe in predestination and are least worried about the physical causes of events.

Global poverty, an offshoot of historical disadvantages as well as the savagery of capitalism, will further aggravate during and after the Covid-19 pandemic. It should be clear that pressing social problems such as poverty, discrimination and inequality are not simply the result of individual characteristics but result instead from larger social structures. Despite structural impediments, some countries had made efforts to reduce poverty which, it is feared, will rise again.

The vicious cycle of poverty – unemployment, low saving, low investment, low production – is already set in motion in many countries and many economists believe that it might be even more severe than the Great Depression of the 1930s unless the developed world helps revive the global economy with debt relief and generous economic assistance.

But the developed world does not seem capable of steering itself out of the crisis smoothly. Trillions of dollars have been injected into domestic economies but restoring normalcy in economic activities is still far from real.

We all know that disasters harm people and destroy property but the Covid-19 pandemic is causing huge damage to humans. Even after some sense of normalcy is restored in markets, hospitals and offices, it will not be easy to rebuild community life as we once knew it. We should expect profound changes in the relationships between people in the workplace, introduction of new methods of work (technology intensive operations with AI taking the centre stage) and paradigmatic shift in the balance of power between people and countries.

The Covid-19 virus may not survive forever but the change it has had on every aspect of life is here to stay. At present, it has challenged humanity’s capacity to cooperate on a global scale – besides highlighting the acute leadership crisis in some countries. However, a window of opportunity to learn from this difficult time is still open.

The new social order, which is inevitable, should usher in an era that heals existing wounds by replacing competition with cooperation. It should not be allowed to create divisions, increase income inequality, and further exploit marginalized individuals and societies.

The writer teaches at SZABIST, Islamabad.

Email: [email protected]