In 2006, Boeing flew me from Brussels (where I was living at the time) to Rome for a regional European meeting. It was my first day on the job and the first time meeting my boss in person and meeting my coworkers.
I love Rome and it was great meeting. I recall there being a session on pandemic business continuity preparedness. At that point in history, we had seen some challenges with the Swine Flu and Ebola. A September 11-type terrorist attack seemed more likely to me than a global pandemic.
Fast forward to 2020 with the COVID-19 global pandemic. The expression “hindsight is 2020” ironically and literally rings true.
I went on a business trip in February 2020 to the US. We heard cautions of the coronavirus; but I didn’t believe it was more serious than what we’ve seen in the past. I had a cold during that trip and then had a spout with Bells Palsy shortly after I returned. I never got tested for coronavirus but wonder if that’s what triggered the Palsy.
I speculated with family, work colleagues and social media connections about how this pandemic and lockdown could be a global disruption in what we consider a “normal” way of life.
Normal meant we could get on an airplane and travel anywhere whenever we wanted. Normal meant that I needed to commute to and from work every weekday. Normal meant that we could go to a crowded Scottish pub and sing karaoke. Normal even meant that I could go shopping and not wear a mask or worry about standing too close to others.
None of these things are “normal” right now. Will all or some of them be normal again?
One “normal” I didn’t mention is an alternative reality. Over the last decade, and especially since 2016, people are able to live in a reality that makes them comfortable. Conspiracy theories combined with social media and programs masquerading as news make this possible.
Donald Trump’s presidency was built on this alternative reality. If he says something dumb in an interview, a social media campaign kicks in to gaslight it. If he does something corrupt, the campaign to discredit whistleblowers and investigators kick in. Each time, a new conspiracy theory takes over and gives comfort to those living in the alternative reality it creates.
The same is true for the global pandemic. Conspiracy theories have tried everything: from trying to dismiss the seriousness of the virus to trying to discredit healthcare organisations and scientists who inform us of a reality that some people don’t like.
Fortunately, reality won the day in the US presidential election. 7 million more people voted for addressing the global pandemic; 7 million more people voted for addressing climate change; 7 million more people voted for tackling systemic racism; 7 million more people voted for inclusion, respect, and kindness; in other words, 7 million more people voted for Biden.
The normal I want to see go away for good is the alternative reality norm. It does more harm to people than the coronavirus is. The new normal should be living in the real world.