Recently, I read an article by a high-ranking member in the world of academe. He wrote evocatively about the essence of the commencement exercise. In his view, it signals less a (new) beginning of graduating students going out into the world (though true that is) and more the initiation of their application of the expertise they have amassed during the course of their studies.
He also, perforce of the current coronavirus pandemic, with equal eloquence, made observation about the world, this new world where the graduates would exercise their skills. A world in which social-distancing is the new normal. A world in which each of us knows someone who labors on the first-line of defense against the assaults of the virus or someone who has become ill or someone who has died or someone who has had a loved one fall ill and die or someone who has loss a job or a career.
Then, describing a time to come, one, doubtless, for which we all hope, he used the phrase “post-pandemic age.”
I’d like, I’d love to agree. However, I wonder…
On Tuesday, September 11, 2001, at my desk in my Capitol Hill office, absorbed by the sound of the silence of the immediate aftermath of the terrorist attacks on New York’s World Trade Center and, not far from where I sat, the Pentagon, I tried to imagine the sure-to-come changes. Swift and, now, long-lasting have been the transformations in our living; many balanced uneasily on that ever-present fault-line between individual freedom and communal security. Nevertheless, generally speaking, we live in a post-9/11 world, where annually and, surely, in certain numbered years (e.g., the 10th anniversary in 2011), we commemorate the past event.
At the turn of this century, the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak spread across nearly thirty nations and territories. In 2012, we witnessed the advent of the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), which has affected over twenty countries. And, now, COVID-19, the third coronavirus-related syndrome, encompasses the globe.
So, I wonder whether we, the human race – now standing, indeed, for years, having stood, perhaps unawares, on the threshold of a worldwide new normal – ever will live in a post-pandemic age.