By Cornelius Ndubuisi
With the current resurgence of the Coronavirus in some countries, following varying degrees of relaxation of the hitherto strict lockdown orders and most people having let down their guards with regards to hygiene guidelines and physical distancing directives, and the spike in the number of cases now being reported across Africa, that before now was basking in the euphoria of perceived climate superiority, coupled with recent submissions by the World Health Organization and public health experts, it is safe to conclude that the Coronavirus may have come to stay, at least for a long time.
And with the way it stands right now, no one appears to be capable of saying exactly how long. Sadly, the vaccines on trial are not forthcoming with results that can apply across-the-board, and may take way longer than earlier projected to add up. By the day, researchers keep unearthing more and disturbing ramifications to the virus, recent among is the reported case of a newborn Mexican triplets testing positive for COVID-19 when both parents tested negative. To say the least, the situation is dire.
On the other hand, the global economy is not showing any sign of rebound, as the ship sinks on. It is being projected that the global economy will shrink by a whopping 4.9% this year alone, not to mention the long term effect of such a downturn, including its far-reaching implications for job security and governments’ ability to cater for the welfare and wellbeing of citizens while still meeting infrastructure and other state needs. The way we know it now, small businesses are packing up as the big ones are outrageously downsizing. Recently, the longstanding airline, “Qantas,” had to let go of 6,000 staff as Airbnb did same to 25% of its workforce, 1,900. More so, the BBC recently reported Boeing laying off about 13,000 members of its staff. In Nigeria, the infamous Access Bank layoff saga is disheartening, and Mikano International Limited having to call it quits with 600 workers is as troubling.
The journey so far has been more about painting a clear picture of what we have come to call “new normal” than about infecting you with fear. It is simply what it is, and it behooves on us to call a spade a spade. We obviously have all been badly hit by the Coronavirus pandemic, but it is also OK to go the extra mile in embracing the possibility of even receiving a deadlier blow on a personal basis. Needless to say that, the lives and sources of livelihood being wiped out in really large scales belong to people. And many more people are currently in line to lose theirs – lives or livelihood.
There is more, perhaps a more far-reaching implication for the next and succeeding generations. Friday, June 26, 2020, was a bad day for formal schooling, as United States President Donald Trump signed an executive order to refocus the federal government’s employment policy on skills and talents rather than school and grades. In the very words of Michael Rigas, acting director of the Office of Personnel Management, “Trump’s executive order directs federal agencies to shift from vetting job candidates based largely on their educational credentials and written questionnaires and move toward using assessment methods that will more directly determine whether they possess the knowledge and skills to do the job.” Indeed, this is the new future: skills over academics.
Although the Coronavirus onslaught may not have been the immediate brain behind this initiative, there is no gainsaying that the “new normal” that has thrust itself upon us is responsible for the acceleration of the initiative, especially given how desperate the Trump administration is to regain traction. Of course, it is only a matter of time before this becomes a global experience, with all those who’ve built their future on ‘sophisticated schooling’ rather than skill acquisition and talent upgrade getting stranded along the way. And, the way it stands now, we can’t yet fathom other such sweeping changes that are headed in our direction. Our best bet?
The idea and possibility of reinvention is one that offers us a chance at surviving the onslaught of these ‘corona times.’ The word itself embodies the idea of having to change something in a basic way so that it begins to work differently. Of course, and naturally so, the idea of “new normal,” the one that has now made its home with us, summons us to a certain level of newness in our way of being and functioning. Indeed, like with a gun to our heads, it puts us on the spot to pick one of two alternatives for ourselves: “reinvention” or “death.” Frankly, to fail to alter one’s consciousness to make room for the disturbing present and a really uncertain future is to have chosen the latter, death. Now more than ever, only the fittest gets to survive.
By the way, reinvention is really not a dinner party. It is serious business, one that gets to make very high demands on whomever threads its path. And this piece is about what I’m now taking the liberty to call the first rule of reinvention: “wholeness.” To say the least, there is simply no chance at reinvention for those who are not in one piece, those in whom chaos have made a home. Chinaza, a friend with whom I once talked this over with, described two sets of people lacking in wholeness: “toxic” people, those who are inclined to harming others, and those who wallow in self-pity and unforgiveness and are highly susceptible to suicide.
The truth is that we all rarely have our act together per time. It is natural to have a past one is not proud of, it is OK to have made mistakes with far-reaching consequences, and it is fine to have woefully failed at a thing or two in the past. It is natural to want to be responsible for our successes while distancing ourselves, as much as possible, for our failures – always blaming them on others. And when we do get to fail, as we usually would, we hit ourselves so hard that we begin to doubt our ability to succeed going forward. Recall those times when you held back from making a game-changing move, when you feared to dare, when you entertained self-doubts, especially on account of a weakening memory, of how a similar big move in the past ended up costing you so much. That was it.
Another side to the lack of wholeness is the penchant by many for comparison, obsessively scoring one’s progress against those made by others, thus breeding internal disquiet and unhealthy competition, instead of the much needed cooperation and collaboration that are part and parcel of the “new normal.” In Chinaza’s words, and I agree, “wholeness, a sense of personal harmony and unity, begins with accepting oneself as a human being and not some god or programmed machine.” To err is human we usually chorus, only that we hardly believe that ourselves.
One last word: reinvention is a journey that can’t be embarked upon without wholeness. Take off from there, then. And what can I say? Bon voyage!