It was a majestic yet subtle 'normal' that we once under-appreciated

A member of the public wears a face mask. Pic: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire

Is it the new normal to wear face masks and hand sanitise? - Credit: PA Wire

Normal. Who remembers it?

When the world was so normal that we didn’t even dwell on how brilliantly normal it was. Zero-metre distancing, an outstanding disregard for personal hygiene, and breaking news that rarely batted eyelids. It was a majestic yet subtle normal. A normal that's hard to even remember against the almost fictitiously bad 2020, yet a normal we can’t seem to let go.

We remain haunted and hindered by our desires to return to visions of the past, but abandoning them could well be the only way that we overcome Covid-19. Our obsession with going backwards rather than forwards is not just government mismanagement (not that they’re in the clear) but a systematic failure that has served to damage the efficiency of action and the morale of our little EU-free island. "Normality by Christmas", "normality by spring" and who could forget "normality by Easter"? It seems we’re running out of synonyms for 'soon'.

Oliver Shasha, bassist FEET, says the band were on the cusp of a 'breakthrough' tour before the pand

Oli Shasha says we have built up a dependency on our normal lives - Credit: Oliver Shasha

Instead of radiating encouragement or inspiration, these ostensible predictions serve to provoke a relief from discipline and from rationality. They instil into our minds an end date, providing us with a break from responsibility, as if the virus can be beaten by foresight. Not since German bombs rained from above have we as a nation had to change, move, or alter for the collective wellbeing of the many. As a result we find ourselves locked in a state of chronic individualism, one that trumps even the Trumpiest of Americans.

The past 12 months have taught us that since the Second World War we have built up a dependency on our normal, dependable lives. Stood alongside other nations, there’s evidence to suggest that inexperience is why we have become so culturally unfit to act as one.

For years it’s been customary in Asia to wear a face covering to protect others if you’re unwell. The Sars outbreak in the early 2000s conditioned many to the widespread use of masks, and most parts of Asia have controlled the virus as a result. Is this because they wear their masks? Or because, as we’ll eventually learn, they know that we’re never too far from the next epidemic, and normality is not as reliable as it used to be.

  • Oliver Shasha is bassist with the band FEET and a Muswell Hill resident.