What does the world look like in the aftermath of a pandemic. Does it look exactly the same. Do we just go back to normal and forget about what happened. Or are we changed forever by it. Will we learn from this experience. Do we ever. Will I lose my eyesight to Netflix. Will I ever get a haircut again.
Sitting at home in lockdown, reading the devastating headlines on the news sites, following the international body count, watching the world economy shifting to the red, perhaps even being monitored by a police drone when stepping outside for a walk in the park, you’d be forgiven if you imagined that in the aftermath of Covid-19 we’d be facing a worse new normal than we had before this hellish episode got started. That most of life will only ever happen indoors in sterile environments. That we will perhaps never hug or shake hands again. That super models will catwalk with spacesuits on moving forward.
And if Covid-19 caused this much pain, then surely a really serious pandemic, like the Black Death for example, that hit an unsuspecting medieval world in 1347-1351, killing 2/3 of Europe’s population and wiping out its entire economy, would have ended the entire surviving known world’s will to live all together. There would have been nothing left of it but graveyards surely anyway. I mean if Covid-19 with a mortality rate of 4% caused Europe to lockdown, then the bubonic plague which had a 50% mortality rate would’ve caused all curtains dropped on it forever surely. A devastation on such unimaginable scale would’ve caused the gates to the continent to be sealed indefinitely. And a deadly silence to fill the air as people across the continent from Florence to London would have locked themselves inside their homes and swallowed the keys.
And when it was all over, this medieval horror show, what sort of a world would have been waiting for the survivors if at all. Surely there was no reason to come out even when it was allowed at last, and not even the birds would’ve dared sing. The sun itself must’ve set on Europe in 1351 and the whole continent forgotten about.
Only that the exact opposite happened of course. The recovery from the Black Death, the most horrific plague in history, was swift and no less than spectacular! For what followed the horrors of the Black Death was one of the greatest epochs of art, literature and architecture in human history – the Renaissance !!
What is it with mankind that requires it to be kicked in such ways to get off its collective ass and leap forward. For “Science advances one funeral at a time”… Well, whatever it is that requires us to suffer before we explode into action here is what followed the pandemic back then.
At first the obviously increased health awareness among the surviving population lead to better hygiene and better diets and so life expectancy across Europe improved dramatically right away. Then the shortage in workforce in turn lead to lower rents, cheaper land and higher wages which in turn translated to lower social inequality and higher social mobility. No longer was your fate sealed by your birth as before. Workers quickly became merchants, and merchants soon became the new nobility. Modern trading methods were implemented to replace failed ones, driving the economy to a new surge! Understandably the wish to enjoy life again was also back and big time. I mean if you are already now missing your pint in the pub just a tiny little bit more than usual, having sat at home for a few weeks on your couch getting fat eating pizza and watching Netflix, can you even begin to imagine how 14th century Europeans must have felt after endless years of a terrorised life in the shadow of the Black Death.
Now combine a completely uncontrollable will to party till you drop together with the new remarkable financial recovery from the deep recession of the plague years, and you can see how the art scene was about to explode !! It started with the sponsorship of artists that took place by the new nobility. Families like De Medicis, patrons of artists such as Michelangelo and Leonardo de Vinci started operating on steroids on a quest to spark the life back to what was a devastated and depressed society. And when these newly emerged patrons started relentlessly competing against each other on who discoveres the greatest talents of all… Well, a nuclear explosion in the scene of art and literature and architecture followed suit, from Giotto to Botticelli to Gothic architecture and back. The good times were not just back, Europe was on a roll, a medieval nirvana of creativity in the making !
And so it happened that the old started making way for the new once again. And although society back then was still a very backwards and conservative one in today’s terms, and I mean scarily so, the seeds of modernity were being sown… Too bad such a kick was needed for all that to happen. But incredibly ancient laws were changed allowing women to inherit land for the first time. Modern and more secular education methods were adopted which in turn set the scene for medical science, anatomical studies and the importance of surgeons to emerge. The humanist movement was born! For the first time an emphasis was put on human values and experiences. Political reforms took place all over Europe as a result. And the old world was changed forever again…
Is it wholly unreasonable to expect the world to change once again for the better following to Covid-19, albeit luckily the trauma isn’t nearly as horrific this time. Yet we can only try to imagine the sort of an incredible new modern world that awaits us and the future generations in the aftermath?
A world where people are immensely more aware and taking greater personal responsibilities for their physical health and diet.
A renewed trust in the role of experts and scientists in our society. And our scientists taking massive leaps forward in the fields of medical science powered by artificial intelligence and gene therapy.
The current crisis positively impacting our government’s approach to our healthcare organisations and professionals. Now that the focus is on they can no longer hide.
Perhaps there would be new and incredible virtual reality technologies following to social distancing.
The economists will rewrite our economic future rule book once again to become stronger more modern more resilient, one that wouldn’t even blink at this virus or it’s cousins in the next round.
Is it really unreasonable to expect a surge in a new openness to ideas and laws and inventions advancing mankind now that we were forced to stop and to reflect on our values and adapt new ones almost overnight.
And then just imagine the sort of parties we might expect once we are all free again and fully recovered and ready to go out to the nightlife scene and raise a glass, with no more lockdown and trauma but instead an explosive party, art and music scene!
As proven time and again throughout history, what doesn’t wipe us out as a species only ever serves to make us stronger, better, more modern, more resilient, more fun. Not sure this specific kick qualifies to launch a new Renaissance, but a strong kick it is never the less, enough to shake things up and launch us into action again.
We’ve been asleep for too long perhaps. Drifting away. It’s time to get back to work it seems. Beware, a better world ahead !!!