OJOKOLO Olawale Gbolabo, (Political/Social Commentator) Twitter: @ojokologbolabo
When shall we three meets again
In thunder, lightning, or in rain?
When the hurly-burly’s done,
When the battle is lost and won.
Macbeth- Williams Shakespeare
The new normal came into practice as the coronavirus has necessitated many lifestyle changes in a short space of time. People are no longer averse to change rather we are so traumatized by the news of increasing deaths and infections worldwide that every new suggested adjustment is accepted without much fuss. This was from the moment that the outbreak was pronounced a pandemic with its daily death tolls and explosive spread.
Early safety warnings from World Health Organization (WHO) included increased personal hygiene which was quickly embraced by world leaders as it was cheap, easy to advocate and demonstrate for the general populace to see and imitate. It was quite a sight to see handwashing demonstrations on Television been led by no less than Prime Ministers, Presidents and elected representatives.
Suddenly, most people realized that though they have been washing their hands all their lives, but they have been doing it wrongly. There was no appetite to protest these new regulations and protocols as deaths and infections increase were no longer foreign news devoid of emotional response but a local reality too close for comfort. In compliance, public buildings rolled out safety measures like temperature testing and handwashing before clients and customers are admitted into the premises.
And that was the beginning of the new normal for citizens across the world. Daily briefings with new preventive measures became the order of the day and this with world leaders at the forefront of the fight against the virus making pronouncement on the latest precautions as stipulated by WHO.
A Shift From Global Norms
Prime Ministers, Presidents and Chancellors became the face of the news with televised briefings, a departure from the norm. Following the advice of WHO scientists, world leaders and health officials advised that people refrain from effusive greetings like hugs, handshakes and kisses. For people living in places were such greetings were the culture like Italy it was difficult to accept and adapt to these new regulations on greetings and salutations. But the increase in cases and deaths forced them to comply.
Ultimately, a lockdown was announced and the unthinkable became the reality. Shut borders, flight bans, restriction of movements except for essential services and an almost total shut down of national economies for weeks, a ban on social and religious gatherings became law. Of these long lists of bans and safety precautions that on religious gatherings hit like an apocalypse with empty auditoriums and cathedrals. The reality hit home that the world was experiencing a new reality as the unimaginable became a common sight.
Social and physical distancing became the norm in our daily interactions or lack of it. As social gatherings were reduced to 20 people and then 15 before it was totally prohibited all together. For social animals like humans this was going against natural law and the core essence of been humans as felicitations, celebrations and even salutations were tempered down for fear of coronavirus contagion. We were faced with yet another stark reality, lack of social and physical gatherings except for the closest family members whose travel and health history one was familiar with, like a spouse.
The Silence of Celebrations ‘Owambe’
The ban on gatherings was a big blow socially as all the planned celebrations ‘owanbes’ were either postponed or cancelled, these after uniform cloths locally called ‘aso ebi’ had been sold by the celebrants and bought by the invited guests.
What is to become of our Saturdays, days dedicated to parties, parting and merrymaking? And all the attendant cottage industries attached to it, like the big event centres and auditoriums? Or the sound of parties which we have come to associate with our weekends. Ghost towns, lifeless streets, quiet alleys all created an eeriness that is at odds with what we were accustomed to on our weekends. Saturdays without parties followed Fridays without Jumaat services and ended in Sundays devoid of church services and attendance by the faithful.
In our religious life a new normal had been fostered on us. Then came the online worships and Zoom parties to help cope with the new state of affairs; the lack of social gatherings for worships and parities. Then came the Zoom boom.
Then most sort after App this pandemic is the video App, Zoom. Inadvertently or deliberately popularized by Boris Johnson the British PM after he hosted a virtual Cabinet meeting on Zoom, the App became the choice of a lot of Chief Executives as the App for office meetings with staff who could not go to work due to the lockdown. And as necessity still fathers’ inventions, Zoom parties are catching on a pace. Just last week Dele Momodu was reported to have hosted his 60th birthday party virtually. It is been said that after attending a party online foods and drinks are then delivered to the ‘attendees’ house by courier.
In this wave of new normal, education and sports are not left out with all levels of education both public and private going online and also sports without spectators. The German Bundesliga returned May 16, 2020 without spectators in what the Germans called the Geisterspiele (the ghost matches).
Irony of Nigerians Abroad
Another ‘strangeness’ that this pandemic brought is the realization that Nigerians can beg and pay to come back into the country. The news of stranded and pleading Nigerians in United States, Italy, England to name a few countries is a surprise that is confounding. Never did one think that the day would ever come that Nigerians would rather be home than abroad. Alas! This are indeed strange times! The rule before now was Nigerians praying and paying their way out of the country, now the reverse is the case. But can Nigerians begging to come home ever be the new normal?
After so many weeks of no social gatherings’, virtual parties, online schooling for even preschoolers, online worships, football without fans with subdued goal celebrations and Zoom parties which are becoming the new norm in this 2020 of many new normal, can these realities become the status quo or are we ever going back to the old normal? As the prologue to this piece was a quote from William Shakespeare, I leave you with an epilogue by yet another English poet who is asking a fundamental question of how to relate when and if ever these restrictions on our life and living is lifted:
If I should meet thee
After long years,
How should I greet thee?
With a hug, a wave or not at all?
– George Gordon Byron.