Notes & Essays

The World Will Never Return To Normal

Scribbled musings as lockdown enters its fifth month.
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The notion that after this pandemic, everything will return to normal is an escapist narrative. It feeds our incessant longing to get out, even if we have little avenues to do so. Everywhere we go and everyone we have become intimate with are now shielded with immense borders of contestation. Worse, political divisions have restored a degree of tribalism that is shallow, hollow, and denies the other the chance to speak. The only conclusion to this dilemma, if we are to extend its limits, is the erection of a thousand asylums between communities and individuals.

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As an example of this ongoing phenomenon, look at the disaster that is America. Some libertarians are currently praising the abduction of several protesters by hooded federal agents even if their principles are against that flagrant abuse of power (one of the principles of libertarianism irrespective of its spectrum is its hostility to the police state in the form of mass surveillance and the unsanctioned decrees justified in the name of peace that the State claims to protect). Domestically, this also applies to certain people in the government, for highlighting the lapses to them is now equivalent to treason for some, a mutiny for others, and an insult to the so-called reputation of the executive, who is acting more like a drunk.

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Neither inspiring confidence nor dedication to a downtrodden public.

We are bombarded with these so-called optimistic theatrics and home-remedy assurances. It reflects the pervading sense of societal myopia, cultural schizophrenia, and a reluctance to inquire and even to critique. One may even say, what is the use of critique, especially today? This is a cogent retort and it also signifies the detachment of the jargon-laced academics and some figures of our politics, whose "reformist" pronouncements are merely reinforcing the very same status quo they vowed to change.

To some extent, all of us are uncertain, nor do we even have a proper roadmap (we are made aware that those in high office have become castrated by this black swan event, despite possessing immense clout above the rest). For those who do, they are systematically committing an act of extortion that the world has never seen since the massive theft of artworks by the Nazis in occupied Europe. Almost overnight, the stocks of the world’s billionaires have risen, while living standards have fallen. This is worsened by a lack of will within the establishment to provide a response beyond continuity (finding balance and reopening the economy are their favorite slogans). It seems that either the elites have been afflicted with severe burnout or they have completely abandoned all pretensions of morality to intensely focus on the looting of the collective wealth of the dispossessed and the working class globally.

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And this is why to return to normal is a pathetic expression, a transient feeling of desperation. And this sentiment is understandable. But how can we, the century that touted themselves as progressive, lose ourselves to the forces of our own making? Is this the confirmation that, after all these years, to play God has been more inhibitive than productive to our welfare as a species?

Unity in this degree is also a spectacle, a bluff, a charade. Our version of the Patriot Act is perhaps the manifestation of these "leaders," who are perhaps apathetic or just out of touch with citizens. To heal as one, like to win as one, is but a marketing trick. And now, those on the stage are losing their cards and implementing their devious charms to the general populace through a combination of intimidation and harassment.

Is this the unity regime that touts itself as the sign of national will or is it a court of yes-men executing deeds that are contrary to the future prosperity of this country?

I have so many questions, though I cannot offer a solution that may satisfy the ears striving for good news. For there is no good news anymore. The people of Athens recoil before the Oracle, because their fate has been sealed. It is dead on arrival.

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What about the economy? In tatters and shambles. The impotence to reorganize the machines into the needs of this pandemic (such as contracting military transport to deliver goods, encouraging more nongovernmental organizations to participate, standardizing the distribution of relief, momentary control of the private sector, and a moratorium on POGOs can be done, for example) has caused this structure to request life support.

But even the stimulus package is not effective. To borrow money requires the debtor to concede some authority to the creditor (which is an unspoken but common practice), and one is certain that we, the debtors, will have to fulfill obligations that may endanger our patrimony. What the recovery stimulus does for now is injecting money into the economy, as much as steroids are injected into a dying cancer patient.

We can thus see that the normal is not worth revisiting. It is the normal that led us to this debacle. And it is the normal that we must break loose from if we are to set ablaze the dimming torch.

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Allen Severino
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