Will the Covid-19 Pandemic Change Human History? | Jodie W

The year 2020 brought unimaginable change to the every-day lives of almost every person on the planet, but it is difficult to know how much of this will eventually impact the future and will genuinely be remembered by those who come after us. At every stage of the pandemic thus far, we have anticipated worsening circumstances but by now, the situation has entirely surpassed most people’s wildest nightmares. For many, the pandemic and the ‘stay at home’ order which came with it have served as a catalyst for positive change, whether that be a matter as simple as making time to exercise more regularly or utilizing our free time to protest for fundamental societal change. Changes have come both on a large scale, with closures of mass retail chains such as Topshop and Debenhams, and on more banal fronts, such as the way in which the ordinary workplace has adjusted to accommodate. The pandemic has also highlighted the rising cruciality of science and technology in our everyday lives which become more and more prevalent as vaccines continue to be rolled out in Great Britain and across the world. Of course as I write this, it is largely hypothetical, but what of this momentous year will people even want to remember? Or would those who lived through it simply rather forget the events altogether?

As a result of Covid-19, society has had to adapt massively. We have had to change our habits, forcing ourselves to recoil away from others in an effort to avoid contamination and this is likely to continue as we fear a continuation of the pandemic. Although many have been disproportionately affected by the measures imposed, such as children living in homes without an internet connection missing out on vital years of education, where society has been divided in many ways, in others it has been united. Everyone has faced some form of difficulty as a result of the disease and although obviously varying in extremity, it is easy to sympathise with one another. Invariably, sharing a common problem is likely to nurture the emergence of a common purpose within society, giving the human race as a whole one polarity of opposition; Covid-19. This has, of course, been seen previously in history too. During the blitz, a 56-day Nazi bombing campaign against the British Isles during the second world war, the cabinet under Winston Churchill witnessed what many described as an ascendance of human good, with British society uniting in an altruistic effort to benefit each and every person, having each experienced the same horrific actions. However when this is reflected on today, this is rarely the focus, instead being the loss of life and destruction which took place, suggesting that whether or not society is able to unite as a result of the pandemic may not truly have a historical significance. Furthermore, although in the past moments of historical significance such as the blitz have united us, this unity is rarely able to be maintained for long periods of time and given the high political tensions which the pandemic has acted as a catalyst to provide, it is unlikely that the unity demonstrated by the ‘clap for carers’ and other similar events around the world will change human history going forward.

On the contrary, there have been mass demonstrations of continual division within society as the news regarding covid-19 eventually blurred for many, leaving room for the promotion of more constructive change. Undoubtedly, George Floyd will be a name for the history books. His tragic death at the hands of three police officers in Minneapolis, Minnesota, was filmed by onlookers and posted online. His death led to countless protests, echoing the chant of ‘Black Lives Matter’ in an effort to raise awareness initially for police brutality but also for the need to eradicate institutionalised racism from our modern day society. This movement spread worldwide thanks to the ease of access improved through technology and social media, prompting the forced removal of the statue of Edward Colston, a known slave trader, in Bristol as well as many other drastic, memorable actions. In the United States, President Trump’s Administration’s mishandling of both these protests and the pandemic as a whole, swayed many voters towards Joe Biden in the November 2020 US Presidential Election, something which will inevitably change human history due to the drastically different policies of each of the respective politicians. The change which so many people have experienced is likely to alter the viewpoints of many individuals, leading to long term changes.

Not only has the income of so many people been jeopardised, along with the fears of an imminent economic recession but the increased time alone has forced so many people to consider who they truly are, what they value. People are now more likely to prioritise what they truly value as the magnitude and speed at which change can occur has become increasingly clear. Therefore, it seems foolish to suggest that the Covid-19 Pandemic will not bring tremendous changes to human history within society.

Furthermore, there have been drastic changes in the way in which education and the workplace will function. There has been a realisation of the necessity of technology in the workplace as almost all university lectures have been moved online with technology being the enabler so that people can work from home as instructed. It is likely that a sense of office camaraderie may become a thing of the past as the necessity to social distance is not possible in many bustling offices, resulting in the need for staggered work-shifts to ensure work spaces do not become overcrowded when not working from home, something which may have seemed unimaginable to many just less than a year ago. However, the opportunity to work from home has been positive for many as there has been a shift in the expectations of employees as they are able to prioritise their responsibilities outside of work, such as childcare, and workplace culture has adjusted to enable employees to be valued more for meeting targets rather than the time which they spend sat at a desk. It will be difficult to deny employees the option of working from home from this point onwards and this is also likely to reduce the number of people looking to commute to their workplace following the relaxation of restrictions. We may even hypothesize that the future will see the eradication of the 9-5 altogether. Although it is impossible to predict how many of these changes will be continued following the return of normality, it is easy to suggest that many of these changes in education and the workplace will be sustained, and although there may be less drastic changes than those within society, the pandemic has acted as a stimulant for changes in human history.

This pandemic has had one crucial difference from those comparable with it which happened in the past, the crucial role of technology. The tools of technology have undoubtedly saved the pandemic from having a worse impact than it may have had in a pre-technological age. Not only has technology played a pivotal role in spreading lockdown messages from governments and of course actually caring for patients ill with the virus, but it has also allowed for many people to authentically offer tools to help people cope with the lockdown measures. For example Joe Wicks, who will be receiving an MBE for his contribution to society through fitness classes which he provided daily through Youtube during the lockdown and Marcus Rashford, who will also be receiving an MBE for his contribution to the campaign against child food poverty, much of which was spread through social media. We have seen a global rise in the ease of access to medicine and doctor’s appointments, and although this has been done due to necessity it appears as though an awful lot of appointments could simply have been an e-mail or a five minute phone call. Technology has brought an unlimited sense of opportunity for change during the pandemic but it is difficult to know how much of these will be acted upon to the extent of truly changing human history or if society will simply wish to return to normality as these technological advancements make change far more gradually. It is certain that without technology, the human history of the pandemic would have been very different.

To conclude, it is evident that the pandemic will bring fundamental changes to our way of life as we move forwards. The Covid-19 pandemic has been the defining global moment of the 21st century so far and given it has had a global impact, the measures which have been put in place in an effort to prevent contamination, and of course the direct impact in terms of illness and death due to the disease itself, will change human history. It is now up to us to decide how it will do so.

Image Link: https://www.ox.ac.uk/sites/files/oxford/styles/ow_medium_feature/s3/field/field_image_main/shutterstock_1660181482.jpg?itok=HyE8LIgY (22/06/21)

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