As the number of COVID-19 cases begins to decline and vaccines become more accessible, we’re beginning to see the light at the end of a very deep, dark tunnel. It’s an understatement to say that it has been a life-changing year, as many of us have lost loved ones, relocated, changed jobs, and pressed pause on friendships and relationships.
But as we come closer to the end, I find myself wondering what exactly our “new normal” will look like. Will it be fraught with pessimism and germ paranoia? Or embrace resilience and positivity?
I believe that a clue lies in our history of a century ago. After some research on the revival after the last major pandemic, I learned that this dark period was immediately followed by an explosion of joy and prosperity.
Spanish Flu as Allegory for COVID-19
While at first glance it may seem like we couldn’t be farther away from another Roaring ‘20s, the year 1920 saw a fierce battle with the Spanish Flu. That pandemic also impacted a majority of the population, in many ways worse than COVID-19, but we ultimately “won” and transitioned into a new, improved way of life. The onslaught of the Spanish Flu set the stage for greater progress in modern medicine, social liberation, technological innovations, and creative arts that we know and love today.
Similarly, the hardships we’ve experienced in 2020 have set a precedent for the revolution likely to come. Although the US was very different a century ago, there are similarities that feel almost prophetic. From restrictions on public gatherings to the mandate of masks, people did everything they could to stem the spread of a raging, worldwide pandemic.
And, as unemployment and racial disparities soared, the American economy was far from “roaring,” as it experienced a multitude of labor strikes and race riots. The Spanish Flu both progressed and subsided during a time of transformation. It feels eerily similar to today — and that brings me great hope during a time when I’ve become emotionally numb to the travails we have all recently experienced.
Burst of Energy in Recovery
With the Spanish Flu being coupled with social and political unrest, people were desperate for a new normal. By 1920, the pandemic had subsided and there was a newfound energy to celebrate the end of isolation and embrace a new way of life. From lavish parties to flapper fashion, the American mood quite literally swung from one extreme to the other.
The 1920s was when women championed their voting and labor rights. It’s when arts scenes blossomed into a powerful reflection of the times. It also yielded an industrial boom before the Great Depression (let’s hope that’s not a part of this pandemic prophecy).
For many, it almost appears as if the darkness of 1920 proved to be the preamble of a new normal that we still enjoy to this day.
Has COVID Planted the Seeds of Transformation?
While the pandemic has crushed so many, physically and emotionally, a newfound energy is burgeoning and it could be helpful to somehow draw inspiration from the creative apex of the age that inspired Gatsby.
Within the past year alone, the world already witnessed major medical, social, and technical progress. It’s pretty amazing that we have developed multiple vaccines within 12 months of the COVID-19 outbreak. Over the past year, we’ve also seen the pandemic highlight racial disparities, a conversation that has finally been brought to the forefront. I’d call that a win.
Lastly, with technological innovations like the expansion of cryptocurrency and the first-ever space hotel being developed, there is no question that our society is about to experience a major cultural change.
While it’s still unclear what our “new normal” will be like, one thing is for sure: we’re not going back to the way things were. Given the direction our civilization is headed and the progress we were able to make in one year alone, the next decade has the potential to recreate our future.
Ultimately, our past has always been an indicator of what we’re destined to face. And while it feels weird to imply that prosperity should be our primary goal, we’ve dealt with enough darkness.
That light at the end of the tunnel could be the Roaring ’20s 2.0 — and I, for one, am ready.Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of The Globe Post.