What to do after Covid-19?
“After Covid-19 it will all be different.” We often hear these words. However, people have different opinions about how it will be different, just as people evaluate differently how things were before. How will we act after Covid-19? The answer depends on our views about the pandemic.
One can view the Covid-19 crisis simply as the consequence of a viral infectious disease. In this case, the countermeasures for “after” would be: better prevention of infection, more effective hygiene policies, preventive measures against epidemics, the development of vaccines and related medicine, the revival of economies battered by the pandemic, and so forth. In this view, a viral infection is seen as an unforeseen obstacle that needs to be overcome; and the central and local governments in Korea have been dealing with Covid-19 from this perspective.
However, it is important to view Covid-19 from a social perspective. We will seek to understand how, in human history, viral infections have been caused by the failure to respect the rhythms and spaces of nature. We will analyze the intrinsic correlation between the collapse of the ecosystem and the globalized economy, which seeks cheap labor and resources under the flag of deregulated capitalism that aims to maximize profits.
This growth-oriented mentality has taken root as the ideology of the globalized economy. In this light, Covid-19 is not just an obstacle to overcome, but a warning signal to the notion of economic growth as something considered only in terms of progress and development. In fact, we humans are responsible for this disastrous viral infection. It is not the virus but our own selves that need to be overcome; the system based on greed that makes tools of human beings and nature in pursuit of profits and riches must be fought against in order to safeguard and value the work of creation. Plans about “after” demand a fundamental self-examination of the “before.”
Measures to cope with the crisis from the first viewpoint are necessary, but not enough. The second viewpoint should not be neglected in order to establish a fundamental approach to Covid-19. For it is both a medical problem and an environmental issue. It is about the human problems associated with development and the economy. If we view it only as a disease or an environmental issue, we miss the essential point and will fail to find true solutions. As Pope Francis wrote in Laudato Si’ [LS]: “We are faced not with two separate crises, one environmental and the other social, but rather with one complex crisis that is both social and environmental” (LS 139).