Today it is fashionable to speak about a new normal to which the world has to get adjusted to. It finds mention in all discourses, discussions and debates. The so called new normal is seen as a solution to overcome all the problems that contemporary life is facing.
Some of the features of the suggested new normal are social distancing, wearing masks, frequent cleaning of hands, no hand shakes, sanitising surfaces, working from home, home schooling, no no to public spitting, no no to sneezing without a hanky protection, no no to travelling unless it is a necessity and perhaps a dozen other elementary precautions.
These may be temporary reorientation of our personal habits, which may vanish if a satisfactory solution is found to banish Corona. Of course, a few of them may get embedded in our thinking and behaviour if the virus remains untamed for another year, which is not unlikely.
However for me the present COVID19 environment, unfortunate as it is, may also be an excellent opportunity to revolutionise and reorient our outlook to adjust to several new normals
The first priority is a radical change in the concept of public health. Increasingly governments have chosen the easy option to this problem, namely medical insurance! This is like an ostrich that buries it’s head in sand assuming safety. Under the new normal governments must be persuaded to take responsibility for creating comprehensive healthcare infrastructure in terms of hospitals, doctors, paramedical staff, safe drinking water, affordable medical treatment etc. A necessary component will be a new mechanism for dismantlement of the present IPR Acts insofar as they apply to discovery, production and competitive marketing of drugs. This is the biggest lesson that the virus has taught us.
The second priority is to end the present normal of business education which only focuses on maximisation of profits as the main objective. This slant has led to many undesirable consequences in a variety of fields affecting the social fabric. Some of these are emphasis on quarterly performance of corporates for maximisation of market capitalisation, sharp accounting practices and window dressing, dodging of sound regulatory requirements, overheated stock markets, unhealthy speculation etc. Suffice to say the Big Four international audit practices owned by and employing a galaxy of brilliant minds from the best B schools have been repeatedly caught with their pants down and fined umpteen times for gross dishonesty. Yet they flourish by virtue of the TINA factor! The root cause of all the ills is greed and emphasis on profitability to the exclusion of ethics and morality in the business world.
The next new normal should be a redefinition of what you own and what should be only for use and not open for ownership. This should be complemented by a law for the portion of owned assets that can be inherited by your legal heir to facilitate development of equitable societies. I call this regulated capitalism. No natural resource including land should be open for ownership. The present model of asset accumulation for the benefit of several successive generations of the family tree is the cause of inefficient distribution and use of natural and built resources and consequential wastage. The most conspicuous example of this is the freehold ownership of land. Every person should have an inherent inalienable right to the use of land. Hence the new normal should be a shift from the present model of owned land to leased land purely for bonafide use.
An overlapping new normal that is necessary is the immediate arrest of pollution and global warming that are many times more dangerous than the Corona virus. We are witness to the vastly accelerated devastation caused by forest fires, monstrous hurricanes and cyclones, torrential unseasonal rains, rise of ground temperatures beyond human tolerance levels, submergence of vast tracts of land, destruction of the flora, fauna and the animal kingdom. Pollution resulting from transportation and manufacturing, packaging ,and distribution practices and widespread use of poisonous plastics is suffocating the whole world and has already crossed danger levels in densely populated major cities.
One could go on and on….but the biggest new normal is a new mindset that every individual, big and small is a subset of the whole society. The subset ceases if the set sinks. In the past too much emphasis was laid on the importance of individuals as influencers. Their entitlements and rights have been considered sacred and inviolable. The new normal is for the society to take charge and lead the agenda.
Many have spoken about the New Normal. The time to act is now.