By Morf Morford
Tacoma Daily Index
One way or another, for most of us, in more ways than we can even define, our convenient and familiar categories between work and home, individual and neighbor, public and private, even day and night for many I know, have been completely blown.
What is, was and will be normal?
What is a waste of time? What is a good use of time?
What is worth fighting for?
What is worth fighting over?
Many of us have experienced a separation from a lifetime of routines and expectations and have adjusted (to some degree) to a lack of separation between work and home life over the last year or so.
Making our way back will, if anything, be even more awkward, clumsy and stressful than losing track, little by little, day by day, relationship by relationship of what we had assumed would be “normal” – and will take borderline forever.
We could keep track, we could make a list of all those things, those categories, those neighborhoods, those relationships that have shifted, evolved or evaporated.
As I drive or walk through neighborhoods I have not seen for a while, I am struck by businesses closed or gone or flourishing.
Some buildings are gone.
Others have entirely new buildings in their place.
As I’ve been working largely from home, or in my office, the world around me has changed in ways I wasn’t tracking with.
Familiar categories and nonsectarian rituals have changed shape, texture or even possibility.
For the second year in a row, for example, we, like most cities, will not be having a large public fireworks display for July 4th.
Summer events, most of them at least, are still on hold.
Even the weather seems more extreme.
Record heat and drought – and rainfall have been hitting many parts of our country – and impacting travel, agriculture and shipping.
Many people I know have observed that spring of 2021 seemed more vivid this year.
Part of it might be that we are seeing it up closer and in more detail than usual, but I think, in my neighborhood at least, wildlife of all sorts, from birds to wildflowers are brighter and louder than I’ve ever seen them.
It’s almost as if they are reclaiming their territory.
Prices are different.
What we can find or buy, or how it gets to our homes is different.
Maybe it’s because I’ve spent so much time at home in a quiet space, but public areas seem louder and busier than they did before.
The freeway seems even more relentlessly busy and frenzied than I remember it.
Little things jump out – who carries pocket change anymore? When and where should we, or shouldn’t we, wear a face mask?
Shaking hands? Should we? Will we in a year or two? Ever again?
Have you noticed that more and more of us trust/distrust the government to a degree we probably never imagined possible?
I see electric cars on the road almost every day.
We now know that anything – and anyone of us – connected to the internet can be hacked.
Anyone have a tele-med meeting with a doctor or other medical professional?
As dreadful as it is, Zoom has become our default format for meetings large and small.
Will we miss it?
Will something better come along?
Will we become more dependent on our devices? Or less?
A few years ago a poll showed us that most of us hate our phones as much as we love them.
In the past year or so we have needed, and certainly used them, far more than any of us would have believed just a few years ago.
When we don’t need them so much, will we ditch them? Or appreciate them more?
Our whole idea of vacation has changed.
Do any of us fantasize about a major trip to a public, crowded and expensive theme park?
Demand for housing has driven up home prices, but as more and more buyers retreat from the market and lower their expectations, will housing prices fall?
Will housing designs shift to meet new customer preferences?
Will home buyers want smaller, more compact units for smaller families?
About a third of all US households are single people.
Or will the work from home movement stir an interest in larger homes more suitable for extended time at home?
Most demographic analysts say that we will be, and have been having a historic drop in the birth rate.
What will this do to schools? Housing values?
Programs like Social Security?
Other nations, Japan, Italy, Germany and Spain in particular, are experiencing budget and social program busting low birth rates.
As with every social issue, low birth rates (and their impacts) will not be evenly distributed.
Even as the USA and other countries face record low birth rates, (https://america.cgtn.com/2021/06/12/u-s-birth-falls-to-record-low-in-2020) those poor countries with overwhelmed infrastructure will be even more overwhelmed.
Some countries face overpopulation and the problems associated with it, such as overcrowding and ever increasing poverty.
Overpopulation is usually caused by very high birth rates, which are associated with health problems, low life expectancy, lack of contraception, and low education levels – especially among girls.
Among other things, this means that more, and more desperate, refugees will be flooding other countries.
Our immigration policies will need to flex to meet these demands and our increasing need for more, and younger workers.
Like every social problem, every one of these has been years in the making.
Some governments, for example have set up programs to pay people to have babies: https://money.com/government-pays-have-a-baby-low-birth-rate/.
Is this reasonable? Possible? Desirable? Necessary?
Whatever else it might be, it’s a level of government intrusion few, if any, of us, would look forward to.
Whatever we call it, as the next year or so unfolds, our patterns and activities will reframe around new and unfamiliar territory, expectations and possibilities and, whatever else it might be, it won’t be a return to life as we once knew it.