OPINION: We are living in the ‘next normal’

Saturday 1 May 2021 | Written by Thomas Tarurongo Wynne | Published in Editorials, Opinion

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OPINION: We are living in  the ‘next normal’
Photo: Cook Islands News. 20050837

It’s hard for this current generation to believe that there was a time in the world when you hopped on a plane and they asked you whether you wanted to sit in the smoking section or the non-smoking section, writes Thomas Tarurongo Wynne.

What we of course know now is that no matter where on that plane you were sitting, you were smoking, be it the active smoking of those with cigarettes or the passive smoking of those inhaling the toxic fumes of those same cigarettes.

The same can be said for buses, trains and restaurants, where the world has changed and this change has meant we can never go back to the time before it.

You see, change that is global is nothing new, it’s just new to this current generation.

But for those of us who grew up without cell phones, without the internet, without social media and without a globally connected world, we are quite used to these seismic shifts despite the generation after us maybe thinking that we struggle with this.

We have made the transition from a post-war world to a digital world, from a binary to non-binary world, and from a locally connected world to a world so connected, so instant, so diverse, ours will be the last generation to have seen the world before it became ruled and dominated by the internet and the cell phone.

And yet there are still pockets of our societies that struggle with elements of change and they usually start their sentence with ‘Back in my day!’

Whenever someone starts a sentence with back in my day, even I turn off my ears to whatever comes next because it is talking about moments that linger only in the minds of those who often haven’t shifted and who in some ways wish we were back there again.

What should be clear to us all today is that last March 2020 was a moment when the world changed almost completely and we will never return to that day or the world before that day ever again.

One of my favourite authors, and one I would highly recommend for food to the soul, is Brene Brown. She recently spoke on this post-Covid world and gave some useful and meaningful insights to this new world.

She said “the Covid-19 crisis is challenging many of our biologically wired beliefs as it disrupts our work and home lives and the way we interact as individuals and society”.

And with no end to the pandemic in sight, she said the ‘next normal’ will require all of us to accept change and continually adapt.

We are in that next normal, that’s right, we are in it no matter where in the world we live. And sometimes I think people see bubbles and travel bubbles as some sort of time-warp that once they open, we can travel back to the time before Covid-19 ravaged the world.

And as we have seen with the opening of the Australian bubble with New Zealand, this is simply not the case. Instead, that world we knew has long gone … and along with it our dreams, hopes and expectations, and we may need to accept that new reality if we are to embrace this “new normal”.

In the context of leadership, Brene Brown says the one key way of navigating this change is to embrace empathy, care, connection and mutual respect. That’s right, leadership that will navigate us through to this new normal is found in the values of empathy care, connection and mutual respect.

Values that are distinctly different from arrogance, distance, self-preservation and dutiful respect. Brave leadership in this new age, in this post Covid-19 world she says, will understand and demonstrate vulnerability, because a post-Covid world has no room for self-preserving armour or arrogance, or both.

Simply put, she predicts, leadership that has spent its energy in self-preservation and armouring itself and its supporters will not be standing in five years from now because it will not have adapted to the change the world has gone through, that we have all gone through no matter where we live or breathe.

The world has changed, that much is absolutely clear, and a travel bubble will not transport us back in time to the world before that change.

Because the transformation needed to survive this pandemic has never been outside of us, rather it has always been in the simplicity of the eternal and the internal, that we love God and love our neighbour as we have never done before.

Are you ready for that change?