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  • Writer's pictureFred Guerin

Let's Not Return to Normal

As always, the cries of politicians on both sides for things to 'return to normal' after the COVID pandemic and the recent thuggery in the US Capital are precisely cries that we should not listen to.

Recently, Miranda Rosen of Alberta's United Conservative Party argued that we must 'get back to normal'--that over the course of the pandemic "nearly every democratic society in the Western world gamble away their longstanding values of freedom and self-determination in surrender to fear and uncertainty." She boasts that she is proud to say that Alberta has not. I wonder if she is equally proud of the fact that December and January have been, by far, the deadliest months for COVID-19 in Alberta, that her province has the highest hospitalization rate in the country and that thousands of people were told that they has to do their own contact tracing after the provincial health system was overwhelmed. Rosen predictably buttresses her call for a return to normal with a quote from Ronald Reagan: "Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We don’t pass it on to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on." She would have done better to quote from Pericles of Athens: ‘We need to put aside our private sorrows and concentrate on securing our common safety.’

The reality is that the very last thing we should is 'return to normal'. Normal' is neoliberal capitalism that results in massive wealth disparity; normal is the prison-industrial-surveillance state; normal is the encroachment upon fragile ecosystems in order to sate elite appetites; normal are pipelines, oilsands, the release of ever more toxic chemicals and climate warming; normal is homelessness, poverty, hunger and war for millions of people; normal are racist, violent police forces.

What we need is not a return to 'normal' but reverence for the beauty and uniqueness of all living things, justice and compassion for 'the least of these' and the cultivation of genuinely democratic institutions. Those are the lost causes that are worth fighting for.

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