Will Things Get Back To Normal? I sincerely hope not!!
Updated: Jun 10, 2020
As I write this, I along with 300,000+ of my countrymen continue to sit under the forced grounding that our government has imposed on us. They call it a 24hr curfew. Others would call it prison. And in many respects, I would agree with the latter. We are not allowed to go for a walk, jog or drive without restrictions. Grocery store or pharmacy runs are restricted to daylight hours on weekdays only. Schools are closed. Hotels are closed. Churches are closed to large gatherings. Virtually every business and institution, outside of the hospital, has been either completely shut down or severely limited. To walk outside without a mask is to commit a capital offense while curfew breakers and lockdown violators earn the privelage of a "bank lane shuffle" on their way to the courthouse.
Even the occurrence of death around us provides no exceptions or exemptions. Loved ones are not allowed to see the bodies of the dead or allowed to visit grieving loved ones. Funerals can only be held with a maximum of 10 people. What a state of affairs we’re in! The Bahamas is not unique though as most countries have enforced similar if not identical restrictions. And it’s all thanks to COVID-19. Or the coronavirus. Or China’s biological attack against the world. Or mother earth's retaliation against humanity’s destruction of the planet. Or 5G. Or demons wreaking havoc in high places. Or God’s divine punishment for our sinful and wicked ways.
The net consequences appear the same. Many people seem to be in a perpetual state of despair, sorrow, loneliness and anxiety. The national and global systems on which we depend are teetering on the edge. Social and mainstream media is saturated with people simply trying to stay sane and cope. Medical institutions are crumbling under immense pressure. And the leaders of the world’s most powerful nations seem to be at their wits end. And it’s all thanks to COVID-19. So on behalf of humanity, I would like to say “Thank You! Thank You COVID-19 for bringing us to our knees and on our faces."
But seriously, thank you COVID-19! Though I have observed so much despair, I have also witnessed some miracles in my Bahamaland that would have been inconceivable before this pandemic. For a country whose systems moves at the speed of molasses, there have been some shifts that have given me whiplash by the speed of their implementation. Like the rest of the world, I pray and hope for the day when COVID-19 is a distant memory. But to be honest, I’m not sure that the subsequent “getting back to normal'' is such a good thing. Here’s a cross section of some of the things I am talking about both nationally and internationally.
1. The improvement of national and global hygiene. In the history of the Bahamas, and probably of the world, there has never been more hand-washing, daily showers, washing of clothing, towels etc and the consistent and obsessive “wiping down” of everything. I can’t recall the last time I went out and smelled body odors which in our tropical/subtropical climate is par for the course.
2. The growing respect for personal space. Now this may not apply to other countries of the world but OMG, we struggle with that in my community! People just randomly touch, rub and hit other people whenever they feel like it without warning nor permission. Somehow, it is embedded within our culture and I have long hated it - especially as a child. This pandemic has brought all that to a grinding halt. And all praise be to social distancing! Let the nation say amen :)
3. Forced Family/Household time. Let us have an honest moment here. Most of us have spent more time with the members of our household since COVID-19 overtook our lives than we probably did in all of 2019. For better or worse, we are being forced to interact more, to communicate and, in some cases, to finally discuss deep-rooted family issues. In the pre-COVID era, our prevailing excuse for the neglect of meaningful household interactions were a lack of time and energy. Thanks to COVID-19 and the continuing fallout, we now have plenty of both!
4. Parents are now the primary disseminators, supervisors and assessors of their children’s education. Can all the teachers say amen? It is no longer the school’s responsibility to discipline, entertain, and manage the children from 8:00-3:00. That baton has now been passed. And parents are literally and figuratively waking up to the little terrorists they created. We’re rooting for you parents! :)
5. Exercise has become a national pastime. Now for my non-Bahamians reading this, let me contextualize this. 70% of my beloved countrymen are overweight. And if you had told me more people would be exercising after the closure of gyms and the restrictions of driving to parks and beaches, I would have called you a liar. Now everyone seems to be a fitness expert, enthusiast or trainer. Many are even doing FB live exercise sessions and sharing with their social media communities. I mean, I’m just speechless!
6. People are realizing the importance of financial planning. And in some cases the importance of saving. This is especially the case now with some 10,000 people suddenly unemployed with the temporary closures of Atlantis and Bahamar. Many other businesses are downsizing and reducing working hours for their employees. And with no projections on their reopening, people now have to learn how to make their last paychecks and NIB checks stretch. During those periods when stores are allowed to open, more people are shopping at grocery stores than fast food and restaurant operations. More meals are being prepared at home out of financial necessity.
7. Forced Institutional Flexibility. For those institutions that have managed to remain viable during this pandemic, they have had to make significant shifts in their operational systems and strategies. Many schools have moved to completely online software platforms. Business and community meetings have moved to online platforms like Zoom. And others have had to add delivery and take-out services that they wouldn’t otherwise normally offer.
8. Lack of partisan politics. Arguably, no other country is as divided politically as the Bahamas. Of course, I’m probably incorrect. But it is amazing to see agreement on virtually all initiatives relative to this pandemic and the national response. Well at least in the beginning anyway. I can only imagine what our country could be like if this were to continue. Admittedly, I know that’s a fool’s dream.
9. Improved air and water quality. I cannot help but notice the improvement of the air when I step outside. And apparently this is a global improvement. Absence of smog in major cities, dolphins returning to the Venice canals and clarity of the oceans and waterways in many places serve as evidence of this. I cannot help but include the increase in birdsong and prevalence of fresh breezes that would normally be absent.
10. Global Solidarity. I took a trip in January centered around solidarity in the Caribbean and Latin American. I could not imagine that a few months later that I would bear witness to this solidarity happening on a global scale. Virtually every country is doing their part to not only protect their citizens but also assisting other nations. Cuba for instance is sending doctors all over the world to medical systems. Universities are allowing medical students to graduate early to join the fight. Retired medical professionals are re-entering the system to contribute their skills and experience. In the Bahamas, we are having medical supplies sent to us from many countries around the world. For the first time, we recognize that the world is a global community and to assist one another is to assist the world. Again I can only imagine if….
11. Increase in openness to faith. This is nothing new in the Bahamian context. But it is remarkable in the global context. This goes beyond the perfunctory acknowledgement of “the man upstairs” that we get from athletes and others in moments of achievement. I’m talking about media-covered admissions from world leaders that “we’ve lost control” and to “rescue your people.” And loudly absent is the ridicule that normally chases such open proclamations faith from those that have no faith. People worldwide are seeking divine intervention for their health, the safety of their loved ones, for provision in the face of economic collapse and from the fear of uncertainty. And many churches, large and small, are rising to that need with many live-streaming services for the first time truly fulfilling the great commission through the development of a global outreach.
12. Appreciation for simple freedoms and increased creativity. The saying, “Think outside the box,” is one that is well-known. It is repeated by many motivational speakers and leaders of organizations to inspire others to be creative and productive. However, it is amazing that much of the creativity we see now is precisely because of the lack of freedom we currently have. We are trapped “in a box.” But this box has germinated online degrees in new fields, innovations in online platforms, novel teaching strategies, virtual concerts, workshops and masterclass offerings and accelerated content delivery. Tonight, a well-known local visual artist is giving us a front-seat to the fullness of his creative process in painting. This would probably not have happened absent from COVID-19. Having said that, I think in a post-COVID world, we will live more fully in the freedoms we took for granted. I will never again look at the beach on my early morning runs the same again.
In the words of famed gospel artist William McDowell, “Never going back, never going back, never going back to the way it was.” I hope my community, my Bahamaland, and the global community will follow the mandate of this song. As for me, I certainly will.
Completed April 11, 2020