Soon after COVID-19 struck the United States, prognosticators began sharing a dreary vision of America’s post-pandemic future. Workers will trade mass transit for their cars and abandon cities for “the hinterlands,” proclaimed a contributor to The Washington Post. Sports fans will swap stadiums for man-cave bunkers and music lovers will watch concerts on their screens, predicted a writer for ZDNet. “Coronavirus Could Make Us Wary of Hugs,” a CNET headline warned, and might “change friendship forever,” The Wall Street Journal pronounced. In June, news stories suggested that the pandemic will “forever” change livestock shows, life insurance, banking, the cannabis industry, the beauty industry, college dorms, the NBA, and golf carts. A writer for the Athens Voice in Greece declared that the hunger for safety will destroy individuality. “We will have lost our human character and the characteristics of humanity,” he wrote. “We will live like amoeba.”
Amoeba? Really? I have to say that I find these unending “how coronavirus will change us forever” stories insulting. The assumption is that fear will guide our post-coronavirus lives, not for a few years, but forever. The scaredy-pants prophesying in these stories underestimates humanity’s historic toughness—our plague-defying, atrocity-surviving, don’t-mess-with-me grit. Humanity has endured fires, droughts, civil wars, world wars, earthquakes, terrorism, famines, floods, killer bees, Honey Boo Boo, and near nuclear annihilation. We may be greedy, shortsighted, and violent, but we’re resilient little creatures too. So the idea that we’re destined for a hug-free, homebound future seems, well, offensive.