Pandemic could be Mother Nature’s way of pruning dead leaves and twigs


Pandemic could be Mother Nature’s way of pruning dead leaves and twigs
By Zan Azlee

In a sense, the Covid-19 pandemic is like Mother Nature’s way of pruning the earth and weeding out what isn’t needed.

I’m sure all of you are expecting me to start talking about politics and pulling comparisons with PKR president Anwar Ibrahim’s latest Twitter post of himself pruning his bamboo plants in the garden.

Well, you’re out of luck. I don’t seem to be in the mood to think about politics this week.

But I’m glad to see that the news media and the rest of Malaysia are already paying attention to it.

It just means that the country is slowly moving on past this pandemic and back to being as normal as before (oh wait, it’s the new normal).

The pandemic caused a huge lockdown all around the world. Life as we know it came to an almost complete stop.

Schools and universities were closed. Work in almost every industry was disrupted and the ones that continued had to do so in a totally different way than they were used to.

Basically, life was turned upside down.

We started seeing what was considered essential and what wasn’t. People and society had to prioritise what was considered important and it showed quite obviously.

For many, it was family and loved ones, while for others, it was about trying to make ends meet.

Whatever it is, everyone has their justification for what is important to them.

Today, the government has declared the recovery movement control order (MCO). Aside from schools, everything else is starting to operate.

Movement around the country is now allowed, dining outside is allowed and industries are slowly opening up.

But everything is done with a lot of precautions and rightfully so due to the situation.

This is supposed to be the new normal. However, what has got me thinking is that a lot of the things that are being implemented under the new normal are actually things that have been discussed and being pushed by many advocates even before the pandemic happened.

If anything, the pandemic just became the push that was needed.

For example, many years prior to the pandemic, we have been talking about having trust in employees to give them flexible hours and to work remotely.

Studies had shown that employers who provide this to their employees tend to see an increase in productivity and work motivation. But for whatever reason, a majority of employers were hesitant.

Then the pandemic happened and employers were more worried about getting sick and dying so they were forced to allow their employees to work from home.

For the most part, industries continued to function and employees still worked and were productive. Employers had to trust their employees and employees had to work so as to not lose their jobs.

Also, to keep costs low, employers have started to realise the importance of the gig economy. Freelance contractors don’t require a lot of fixed costs and this helps employers be more sustainable in situations that are difficult.

And again, the gig economy is something that society has been trying to push for years before the pandemic.

I understand there are industries that require a more hands-on approach when it comes to their services.

Unfortunately, the pandemic has affected these industries quite adversely, for example, the hotel and tourism industry and to a certain extent, the food and beverage industry.

But even then, it is just a matter of adapting to the new normal for these industries to rise back up.

The reality also shows that there have been many people who have lost their jobs and businesses because of the pandemic.

It is either that the economic shutdown has affected their businesses financially or that society has realised that their jobs are not essential for the current times and the future.

Now, we have to start thinking about how to adapt ourselves to the post-pandemic future.

The most obvious thing would be to realise that many jobs that require close contact between people will probably die off.

Technology would develop whereby jobs like these will be automated rather than manual because it would be safer health-wise and more economically efficient as well.

Jobs and careers that would still require people to be involved are those that revolve around conceptualisation, ideation and creation.

It would mean that society just needs to be more high-skilled in concept rather than manual labour and this requires a total shift in our education system so that we can prepare the people and society for this change.

Again, just like the gig economy and remote working, this isn’t an idea that is new. We have been talking about the evolution of jobs and careers for the future many years prior to the pandemic.

We have been talking about all of these ideas for so long and finally, the pandemic is pushing it to reality.

I guess Mother Nature got a little bit frustrated and impatient looking at how slow humans are taking to move civilisation forward that she had to play her role a little bit more aggressively.

I guess this is what is needed to progress – a little pruning to get rid of the dead leaves and twigs that have been in the way of growth.

[This article was originally written for and published at Malaysiakini.com]

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