O brave new post-virus world

With Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil showing clear signs that they’re on their way to becoming one party, and with Sinn Féin’s popularity ratings apparently knowing no bounds, not to mention the small matter of a border poll, the political map here in ten years’ time will probably be near to unrecognizable.

But there are other changes coming at us too, of a non-political nature, for which – if we survive – we’ll have Mr Coronavirus to thank.  A major feature is happening already: employees of Google and other huge tech companies have been telling their employees to work from home. As the number of victims to the virus  expands, more and more companies will be adopting similar work-from-home strategies. Universities and schools are finding ways of teaching and learning from a distance.

While the virus rages, that makes very good sense. But when (and if) the pandemic comes to an end, companies and society generally are going to look very hard at the notion of maintaining this from-home element. Why have people polluting the planet and wasting hours of precious time, not to mention precious energy, in commuting to and from work every day? There is a case for face-to-face meetings but they’re much fewer than we sometimes tell ourselves. For many of us, meeting colleagues at work is what makes the job bearable. But that’s a poor reason for rejecting a strategy that would be time-saving and would contribute massively to a healthier world.

The other factor that could have long-term implications is the noli me tangere syndrome –  avoiding contact in the form of handshakes or hugs or kisses. As things stand,  every teacher knows that you don’t, under virtually any circumstance, lay a hand, however affectionate, on a child. This absence of physical  empathy will, I’m convinced, contribute to forming adults with skewed emotional lives. If that is expanded to the general population,  the literal and metaphorical distance between us will be expanded. To our detriment.

John Lennon once wrote a song called “Come Together”. Forget that as a theme song for the future. Try instead, maybe, Paul McCartney’s “Get Back”.

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