09 Jun Re-imagining The New Normal
By Andrew Khoo
AsiaCMS Board of Trustees
During this time of ‘lockdown’, we have thought and wondered about the post-lockdown period. We, and others, have asked, “What will the ‘new normal’ look like?”
Before trying to answer that question, perhaps it would be good for us to first ask ourselves, “What was the ‘old normal’ like for us?” Was it perfect? If not, was it acceptable to us? If yes, why was it acceptable to us?
Could it be that the ‘old normal’ was acceptable to us because we had settled into a cosy relationship with the imperfect?
We had carved out a ‘comfortable compromise’ with everyday life, which didn’t impose too many challenges on us; an arrangement where we could get along without too many concerns.
Were we concerned about the refugees and undocumented migrant workers who inhabited the grey area of the informal economy, with its daily-rated and low-remunerated wage? – these were the first type of jobs to evaporate when the lockdown came, casting such workers and their families immediately into financial and food insecurity, and uncertainty.
Did we care about the poor and the marginalised; those who did not have enough to eat, and who are dependent to a large extent, on some form of income and food support and supplement? – their access to that assistance was jeopardised by movement restrictions and the (initial) prohibition on non-governmental organisations and societies from continuing with their charitable activities.
And did we think about the ‘front liners’? Not just those at the front-line of the medical response to COVID-19, but the ‘backroom’ people? – the ones we relied upon to stock the shelves of the supermarkets and convenience stores; the ones who prepared food at restaurants for our takeaways; the ones who drove cars and rode motorbikes to deliver the takeaways to us; the ones who kept our streets clean and collected our garbage, come rain, shine or disease.
It is interesting to reflect on what the government considered as ‘essential services’ during the lockdown. Places of religious worship were shut, religious services were prohibited, and ministers of religion could not make pastoral visits. But work that can be considered dirty, difficult and dangerous were prioritised.
Hospital cleaners suddenly became singularly important. The first became last, and the last was considered first. People to whom we would not give a second look, whom we took for granted, suddenly became the focus of attention – And a critical need.
So in the ‘new normal’, will there be a permanent re-evaluation of people in these categories of work? Or, after a while, will we forget and will things simply slide to casual normalcy?
Will the characteristics of the ‘old normal’ – distance, disconnection, disenfranchisement, dislocation – return? Will we allow them to return?
Will we replace physical distance with God and with others with a spiritual connection – social disenfranchisement of God’s human and environmental creation with spiritual relocation/replacement?
And will we recover our priorities by rediscovering God’s?
In both private faith and public fidelity to the Gospel, will the ‘new normal’ or reimagining the future post-COVID-19 move us and those around us from emotional helplessness and emptiness to spiritual empowerment, especially as we have just commemorated Pentecost?
In the words of the Most Revd. Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury: “Re-imagining enables re-evaluation of current societal challenges and the re-ordering of priorities for each stakeholder.”
Wishing you a vivid re-imagination in the ‘new normal’!