Surveying Post COVID Change
by Mike Meyer ~ Honolulu ~ May 16, 2020
The depth and breadth of change from the pre-COVID-19 world is a planetary metamorphosis. It is safe to say that we will all spend the rest of our lives working to understand and redefine ourselves in this new order.
These early days are hard, and all the dust from the ongoing collapse of the old world makes it dangerous and difficult to see. We still have a significant part of the population struggling to pretend that the previous world will somehow spring back to life and carry on in all its waste, extreme wealth, and poverty.
Usually, these are the people, a shrinking minority who became rich and powerful beyond their dreams in the twisted distortions of late-stage, extreme capitalism. The most significant related group is the population, desperately clinging to the illusion of the American middle class that makes up the new precariat. Most of these bought the fantasy of a future return to middle-class America that was fabricated by the ruling elite to protect their ownership.
The bulk of the educated and professional population understands how tenuous this had become and now hangs between insecurity, depression, and fear of descent to full precariat status. The burden of understanding is knowing that the pandemic has both only begun and is a component of a much bigger complex of changes, most of which will produce a growing cascade of disasters into the foreseeable future.
Although the cataclysmic failures of the old governmental and economic systems triggered by the pandemic dominate the elite owned media, most people are facing hard personal and immediate family choices. How much of our old ways will return and when, plus what will not return, requiring significant personal and family changes?
Political and economic collapse is simply an escalation of the previous decline of the US and other extreme capitalist countries. Both systems have lost any semblance of democratic control by or relevance to the general population. The real issues are local and close to home. Increasing awareness of the extent of the changes only raises more questions for people with answers still lost in a dense future haze.
The future, of course, is already here but, as William Gibson famously stated, just not evenly distributed. While statements like these are prevalent and often used before COVID, no urgent action to find the future was required. Now the search is on.
Our immediate future depends on change, and the COVID quarantine and lockdown have accelerated the cultural metamorphosis long rumored. We are struggling to crack the shell of our old social forms and figure out how to live in our new winged form. Our style is now digital, and our wings are virtual.
This new style or form summarizes the transition to virtual meetings, virtual events, virtual reality breaking ties to physical locations, and the absurdity of moving massive population at the expense of climate destruction. It opens the opportunity for high-quality education regardless of position by removing the pretense of teachers as inspirational scholars in every isolated classroom.
Our new form also transforms the relationship between people and administrative management now handled by federal governments. While the centuries have moved us steadily to large urban systems, metropoles, these will become home to close to 80% of the population in the next twenty years. But the very nature of urban environments is changing quickly now post-COVID-19.
The preferred residence of most of our population will be urban by breaking the links to physical offices, and, to an extent, schools, the abandonment of offices and malls will expand the area and lower the density of urban environments. In a time of pandemics and the need to maintain care in exposure to random crowds, physical gatherings will become more critical as daily social activity declines. Still, a growing percentage of this will be virtual immersion.
Self-driving cars and small aircraft with only periodic in-person meetings for business and education will reduce the need for daily transportation. And automated commutes can be longer if more infrequent. The first COVID lockdown has made this the new normal. Subsequent COVID lockdowns over the next two or more years will drive both robotics and Virtual Reality.
All of the points of complaint on Zoom meetings and difficulty in discussions missing body language clues are relatively minor. The critical health gains, cost reductions, more free and family time are all glaringly obvious now. The fact that it is impossible to do back makes this transformation final.
We will have the continued consequences of the part of the population manipulated to support the old ruling elite demanding a return to the past at any cost, but that will no happen. It will be ugly and, maybe at times, violent, but we will not go back. Resurgent COVID outbreaks caused by disregard for social distancing and refusal to wear masks will become both deadly and very old quickly. Sickness and death around us is a brutal teacher.
Adding in the worsening climate crisis will give even greater impetus for urban regions to encourage surrounding local food sources with changes in diet as well as a broader interest in gardening. This reintegration of semi and rural areas into metropoles will produce urban gardens as well as encourage the expansion of the metropolitan regions with much denser green areas.
An exciting process will be the evolution of the urban government replacing, in some cases, states or provinces, and, eventually, the withering away of the larger national governments. These unneeded layers of government are already wasteful and are rapidly becoming diseased in their decline. The most trusted governmental entities are already metropolitan area governments. These deliver the growing range of services required for a post-industrial, pandemic, and climate threatened life.
The growing failures, problems, and collapse of services from the large nation-states such as the US, China, India, Brazil, and Russia have produced the primary source of political conflict and threat to the planet’s population. These are now redundant in a new digital and virtual world.