August 3, 2021 10:00 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

Beth Porter

You Having A Larf, Mate?

  By definition, almost every country in the world is feeling the effects of the covid-19 pandemic and its variants. Trying to pinpoint what may or may not be normal in any of them isn’t merely difficult… it’s impossible. It depends on a conjunction of so many factors that the entire concept is quite ridiculous.

  Yet, here in the UK, that’s precisely the question underpinning nearly every top-down attempt to define it by journalists, broadcasters, NGOs, medical experts, economists, the network of the corporate world, back-benchers, and government spokespeople, including the vacillating Prime Minister and his hench-persons. Some are idle speculation, others influencing policy.

  As for the views and opinions of individuals and community interviewees [however articulate or informed], most tend to parrot phrases or headlines taken from those in the paragraph above. Round in circles we go, tra-la! Or, as folks in the middle ages used to sing, “Ring-a-ring-a-roses/ A pocket full of posies/ A-tishoo, a-tishoo/ We all fall down.”

  The most obvious points of alignment are the starting point of the measure, the defining era, and most important, the assumption of the relevant social class.

Neanderthals Had No Calendars

  To be fair they hadn’t yet developed language skills either, so this is a fantasy conversation.

  “Yo, Og, remember back when things were normal?”

  “Dunno, Mrs Og. Back when?”

  “When you knocked me on the bonce with your club and dragged me into the cave by my hair.”

  “Oh, yeah, that. You saying that was normal?”

  “Well, I defo don’t want to get back to that, if it was!”

  “Women! Always changing your minds!”

Big Biz Draws In The Sand

  Gotta start somewhere, so consider the British shorelines and beaches. Let’s say it’s three hundred years ago. Big Biz clones busily draw a wide line… their line in the sand. “From here on,” they declare, “everything we say is normal, is normal. Before now, there be heathens, the unwashed, uncivilised. Ignore ‘em!”

  And the dejected people say, “Yessir, yessir, three bags full, sir.”

I’m Posher Than You, Peasant!

  Adherence to the defined time periods have ever since depended on the social equation of those with the most dosh compared with those with less. Even down to the scrapings at the barrel’s bottom. Happily, there continue to be rebels. Sadly, there continues to be guilt. But always the assumption has been that the current status quo is the blueprint for what’s considered normal. Covid-19 has trod all over that with tiny viral jack-boots.

  Doesn’t sound too bad… a couple of tiny boot prints. But the virulence of a pandemic recruits billions, trillions, gazillions of the buggers into a fighting force so powerful, any concept of normal gets squashed to smithereens. And that’s not even counting the propensity of viruses to mutate, to incorporate other strains… Alpha, Beta, Delta, plus.

  No one, however rich, however deluded by power, however smug within the protection of their class… no one can buy their way out of a pandemic. The most informed experts working very much on the front line to defend us, all admit they don’t know how or if covid-19 and all its current and potential variants can ever be eliminated. At their most optimistic they try to make us understand we’ll have to learn to live with this virus and work to control it.

If Not Normal, Then What?

  Often cited as the key criterion for getting back to normal is the look and atmosphere of High Streets throughout the land. Hospitality. Running a close second is Itchy Feet, otherwise known as the urge to travel. Unlock us for we are fed up staying at home.

  Both have money at their core. I do try to mitigate my own capitalist bias against profit being the priority for normality. But I don’t always succeed. The wishy-washy political justifications coupled with the bald self-interest of corporate spokespersons infuriate me.

  The hospitality sector’s raison d’etre has long been a redefinition of shopping as a primary leisure activity. So important, they claim, in promoting social interchange, reversing the isolation enforced by the pandemic.

  Restaurants and other food outlets, theatres, cinemas all depend for their existence on convincing us sheeple to spend, spend, spend.

  As for the travel industry, the key beneficiaries belong to the business class. Their use of flights represents the greatest use overall. As reported by Allied Market Research, “Business travel is a branch of the tourism industry focusing on visitors who travel for business and professional purposes. According to the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), the share of GDP generated by the business travel market reached 0.7 percent in 2019.” And now we learn that this sector is being encouraged with deals and perks to incorporate their own leisure travel into their company business plans.

  The service industries are the runners-up and deserve their own column. Another time!

  Yep, shopping’s the answer. Yeah, it is if the question is how to increase the bank balances and stock options of companies large and small.

  Of course we mere people can actually provide our own uses for the spaces left by all those pre-normal company closures and bankruptcies. Some already are!

  Sadly, they include food banks, the increase of which is a direct result of government policy which has subsidised the corporate sector, most especially retail and investment banks as individual poverty has soared.

  More positively, though, are local initiatives to plant trees and blooms in town centres, providing free seeds and saplings. Early-age play and learning centers and locally run outdoor playgrounds allow parents and carers true social interaction, rather than one motivated by spending. Some boarded-up spaces are even being turned into small urban farms.

  Altering central areas as car-free zones can not only make for a happier social environment, it improves the health of the planet. And bespoke mini-bus services can help redundant taxi drivers, sacked for lack of demand.

  I’m sure we can all think of more creative ways to establish a new normal. Let’s reject those old, pre-covid conditions.

  Now we’re laughing!

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