The youngest country in the world was the 51st African country to confirm a COVID-19 case on April 5, 202l. As the world adjusted to the “new normal,” South Sudanese hoped that this pandemic would pass them by. Having experienced floods, a locust invasion and a fragile peace, the expression thiele riek mi mat ro jo riek mi dong [another problem should not be added on top of another problem] held much resonance for South Sudanese.
The rage of the COVID-19 pandemic has been as astonishing as any epic disaster can be. What startles some of us more is the unabashed projection that millions of Africans will die, probably as soon as the pandemic ends at the current epicenters. How come some of these analysts speak with so much certainty and do not suggest that they are merely projecting from indices that only they know?
When humanity recovers from the plague – COVID-19 – there will be a new normal. This goes beyond the unknown numbers of people who have been sick or died. And it goes beyond the deep economic impact that this plague has already had on the planet. It’s about trauma. It’s about how most of us will be feeling.
Worker leaders in South Africa are awakening to a new reality, as they must be all over the world. The old certainties are no longer as firm as they once seemed. It’s noticeable that the phrase “When this is over” is not automatically followed by “and when we get back to normal” but is instead left hanging in the air. What exactly will the new “normal” look like?
In a classic episode of Rod Serling’s original Twilight Zone entitled “The Old Man in the Cave,” a small town has survived a nuclear holocaust for 10 years while most of humanity is extinct. They have received sound advice from their leader who receives recommendations from an unseen “Old Man” in a cave.