Humankind is going through a new and unprecedented experience with the rapidly spreading Covid-19 pandemic. We still do not know who ‘patient zero’, the first person to be infected and transmit it to others, was. The severity of this virus, which has caught the world by surprise, lies not only in the delay of laboratories in finding an effective and efficient vaccine, but also in the fact that the measures taken to counter it differ considerably from what was previously adopted to confront various acute crisis, whether health, political, social or economic.
There is no doubt that the Covid-19 pandemic will change the face of human society, but it forces us to ask some important questions. Will this change only affect the healthcare systems, or will it extend to consumption patterns, value systems, political regimes and legal systems, thus leading to the fall of the huge financial and economic empires? Will the major transformations the world will undergo be determined by how we recover from the effects of this situation?
According to the World Health Organization, the problem does not lie in Covid-19 alone but rather in the fear, panic and terror caused by the spread of this virus, and amplified by the media, which has been presenting the situation as if it were the end of the world. Barring the measures adopted by China, where the virus originated, the methods used to manage the crisis around the world are somewhat similar. To some extent, China succeeded in curtailing the spread of the virus, thanks to the spirit of discipline in its people, and due to its health infrastructure, the plethora of research centres and laboratories, and the ability to control the sources of information from the onset. Most other countries have wasted precious time after the first cases appeared, relying on legal and security control in dealing with the pandemic and information about it, rather than establishing a single entity to disseminate information backed by science.
The current crisis is not of the pandemic alone. Rather, it is of the far-reaching consequences on human behaviour. Addressing these repercussions should not be limited to taking ad-hoc costly measures limited to the current situation but should prompt us to think about putting into place innovative measures and actions that go beyond the pandemic. Measures like imposing quarantines, enacting new laws to manage the pandemic, using modern tools for e-learning and telework, ensuring a minimum standard of living for all, granting loans, exemptions from paying water and gas bills and taxes, assisting the unemployed, and using the military to assist in security measures during the epidemic have cost countries billions of dollars. These are funds that could have been invested in infrastructure or other major projects, but instead have now been used to respond to the immediate needs of the people.The pandemic will radically change the modern world, leading to three likely outcomes.
The first outcome
A new theory will be integrated within political science in the future. Indeed, traditional legitimacies in the systems of government, which are derived from ballot boxes, hereditary legitimacy or religion, are beginning to decline, leaving room for a new theory called the “theory of achievements”. Since the Cultural Revolution of Mao Zedong in the 1960s, China has worked on this emerging legitimacy, as the Chinese Communist Party has distinguished itself from the rest of the Communist parties in the world.
The second outcome
The traditional conflict between wrong information and right information will transform into a conflict between convincing information and unconvincing information, as legal arsenals and control tools are no longer effective in the spread and prevalence of correct information. The method of producing information and choosing its dissemination channel is becoming a means of turning it into convincing information, regardless of if it is true or false.
The third outcome
The process of monitoring people will transition from external to internal control using smartphones. This is also what happened in China, to curb down on misinformation on Covid-19 during its early stages and as a preventive measure in the absence of a vaccine. These smart devices have become effective tools for measuring citizens’ reactions at home to what is happening in their surroundings.
A coming human revolution
Humankind is going through a humanitarian revolution, the kind that has occurred only thrice before: first, after the discovery of fire; second, with the advent of agriculture; and third, following the industrial revolution. The most prominent sign of this ‘fourth revolution’ is the predominance of new technology and the supremacy of modern means of communication, which have spawned a conflict between two major concepts of using the internet. The first can be described as social perception with a human connect, while the second is non-social perception, and can be termed as wild and unbridled. The humanitarian-minded perception is likely to win this conflict, as this human revolution is making its mark on our social existence and old behaviours. This will impact the current value system and will have political andeconomic implications.
The post-epidemic stage will see the emergence of a new human being, whose daily behaviour and thinking will differ from what it was before the Covid-19 outbreak. The political, legal and economic systems will have to adapt to this new human being. Despite the timely importance of the current safety measures being put into action around the world, there is a great need for these to be integrated into a comprehensive post-pandemic thinking. In fact, we will find ourselves faced with a generation who thinks differently from the pre- pandemic generation.
In light of the impact of Covid-19 on the individual and collective behaviours of society and State, and people’s continued thirst for information, it is necessary to keep in mind the post- pandemic world when it comes to decision-making. The Covid-19 storm will pass and mankind will survive, despite the loss of many lives. Humankind will soon live in a world that is very different from the one before the virus. However, the pandemic will succeed where the other movements of the 20th century have failed in their struggle to establish democracy and human rights, and preserve a safe environment for all.