Don’t Hold Your Breath Waiting for a Post-Pandemic ‘Return to Normal’
President Biden may have admitted “the pandemic is over” with regard to COVID-19, but that doesn’t mean we won’t be feeling its sting for a long time to come.
Security expert Brian Michael Jenkins argues that “the normality we knew before will not return” as we suffer the lingering effects on policy, erosion of liberty, and breakdowns in social cohesion. Data from elsewhere shows that we’re already living in a world affected by the pandemic and the policies adopted in response to the virus. Pointing to the after-effects of historical epidemics, Jenkins predicts the damage may last for generations.
“Physicians talk about ‘long COVID,’ the range of ongoing, recurring, or new medical conditions that can appear long after the initial infection: the concept has a broader application to society as a whole,” Jenkins writes in a commentary adapted from his recently published book, Plagues and Their Aftermath: How Societies Recover From Pandemics. “And as we try to process what all this means, history can be a useful tool to help us understand what we might expect in the future.”
Those of us particularly concerned about lockdowns and other assaults on personal liberty that were implemented in the name of fighting infection are in good company suggests Jenkins, a former Green Beret captain, later adviser to the National Commission on Terrorism, and now a senior adviser to the president of the RAND Corporation. Governments have traditionally taken a heavy-handed approach, prompting questions about motives as well as pushback.
“Since the Middle Ages, it has been recognized that large-scale outbreaks of disease are dangerous and demand aggressive responses, drawing government into domains of activity that have traditionally been outside of political authority,” he notes. “As in past epidemics, suspicions that government has exploited COVID-19 to expand its authority have been widespread.”
In fact, watchdog groups around the world have repeatedly warned of government officials taking advantage of the virus to tighten the leash on the people under their control.
“As COVID-19 spread during the year, governments across the democratic spectrum repeatedly resorted to excessive surveillance, discriminatory restrictions on freedoms like movement and assembly, and arbitrary or violent enforcement of such restrictions by police and nonstate actors,” Freedom House observed last year.
“The pandemic has resulted in an unprecedented withdrawal of
Article from Reason.com