I mean, that’s true in general of course. But it certainly seems much more true in these pandemic times.
Before all of this waves hands arounds frantically, people had a general sense of routine and predictability about their daily lives. It varied person by person of course, but many people had regular things like a steady job that kept them occupied for most of the week, a school where their kids could go off to most days, maybe a favorite bar or restaurant they visit every week or so, church on Sundays, friends you saw every other weekend or so, malls or stores they would pass by regularly, and so on and so forth.
Even though I had a generally looser schedule than most, I was still often able to plot out my coming days with relative accuracy. Oh, I have a client meeting on this day. Then the next day I have to run these errands. Then meeting up with friends (maybe for a quiz night) the evening after. On the weekend a visit with my brothers and the nieces. That kind of thing.
And I would have had some fairly safe medium-term predictions too. If you had asked me at the start of the year, I would have thought I’d have seen the Black Widow movies by now, played Final Fantasy VII Remake, and got together with the family in April to celebrate birthdays. But none of those came to pass.
Nowadays, that kind of reasonable prediction seems like a distant memory. Weeks come and go and all the days seem to blend in together, each one indistinguishable from the last.
I’ve thought about writing something about what to expect down the road, or the “new normal” or what not, but (a) so many people (many of whom I’m sure are better qualified) are already writing things like that; and (b) I think a lot of it is largely pointless.
We have all these models and graphs and projections coming out, with varying degrees of reliability. They tell us things like, there will be M cases and N deaths by so-and-so date unless we do this or that. Each model is slightly different, depending on many factors like the country being studied or the data being analyzed and such. And maybe they’re right. Surely at least some of them are, right? But all of these are, to make a software development analogy, estimates. Some are certainly more accurate than others - it falls to our individual discernment whether we choose to believe experts and scientists or populist politicians or whatever - but in the end, all of them are still just estimates. Trend-spotting based on data that is probably largely incomplete (certainly so in the case of my own country). And just like estimates, there’s no way to know for certain which will turn out to be correct.
In spite of all the models and trends and predictions, the future remains incredibly hazy.
How many cases will we end up with? How many deaths? All as of yet unknown, but almost certainly far too much.
Will we have a vaccine this year? Next year? In 2022? No one knows for sure. There are many vaccines and treatments in development, but we won’t know for a while which ones will turn out effective, if any. There may never be a permanent vaccine, the same way we don’t have one for the common cold.
Will there be a second wave? Seems likely. Will it be under control? Who knows. Even countries we previously thought to be doing well are in danger of a possible resurgence, so what then? How much more countries like us that have done far worse in controlling the spread?
Will the ECQ in Metro Manila be lifted after the 15th? Nobody knows, even up to now, a mere 5 days before the deadline. And if it is lifted, what happens then? There are people counting down to the ECQ lifting as if it would be “back to normal”, I can’t say it will be, but it almost certainly shouldn’t be. Maybe there will be an explosion of people, tired of being cooped up in their houses, and a corresponding explosion of cases, and we are forced to go back to a stricter lockdown. That’s my guess, but again, nothing is certain.
When will people be able to go back to work? When will your favorite restaurant be open again? When will you get to meet up with friends again? When can I travel to other countries again? All of these, nobody knows.
I joke with my parents and brothers that the next time we’ll be seeing each other in person again would probably be in August during my birthday month, but something that far off might not come to pass.
And people are talking about what the “new normal” is going to be like. That we might have to live with social distancing precautions in the medium-to-long term moving forward. We may be looking at months or maybe even years of social distancing measures. Or cycles of lockdown and loosening, until there is a widespread vaccine, or maybe forever? All distinct possibilities, but again, there’s no certainty.
And there are people that say humanity is going to learn our lesson from this crisis and realize that so many things we previously accepted in our daily life are BS that we can do without. Short list: overpopulation, inequality, low pay for essential workers, work commutes, dress codes, etc.
Companies will see that work from home is effective, so it will be more common moving forward! The anecdotal reports of companies implementing draconian surveillance schemes to monitor their remote workers makes me doubt that one actually.
I don’t buy that this crisis will change society for the better (though I am more than willing to be surprised). Many humans are too set in their ways and can’t even be bothered to endure minor inconveniences like wearing a mask to costco or whatever. And there are many who can’t wait to be right back there sucking at the fresh teat of capitalism, instead of maybe looking for alternatives that promote and protect the commons instead of exploiting the vulnerable. Don’t get me wrong - there are many positive and hopeful stories coming out of this pandemic, of people helping other people get by - that heighten my faith in humanity. My faith in humanity’s leadership and elite, however, is probably at an all-time low.
All the models and projections and predictions for the new normal, these things are useful at the policymaking levels. But for those of us just living our every day lives, it is difficult to look so far ahead. Right now, we are roiling about in a sea of uncertainty, unsure of what the future brings. All we can worry about will be what the next day looks like. Maybe the best we can do right now is just to take it one step at a time, and hope that we are making the right decisions to build towards a new normal that will actually be better than the last one.
This post turned out more ranty than I thought it would be.