The new-normal none knew | Sunday Observer

The new-normal none knew

26 June, 2022

“Under heaven, all can see beauty as beauty, only because there is ugliness. All can know good as good only because there is evil. Being and nonbeing produce each other. The difficult is born in the easy. Long is defined by short, the high by the low. Before and after go along with each other”
- Lao Tzu

The use of the term “new normal” became normal in our daily conversations due to life-style adjustments we had to make in order to protect ourselves from Covid-19. It was not normal for the society to be isolated. It was not normal to see people, who had been controlling and managing their diabetes and/or hypertension for years, die suddenly without even showing any other symptoms. Careful use of phrases such as “new normal” coerce us to get used to the situation without trying to think extensively about how and why we are in this situation and what are the fundamental transformations we will experience in the near future.

Economic crisis

It is also a way to implant the idea that things will never be the same as before and therefore be ready for a new way of living. As most people were getting used to the Covid-new-normal, the economic crisis began demanding a completely different set of lifestyle adjustments, which at the beginning were considered to be a temporary discomfort.

Even that only for the poor and perhaps the lower-middle class of society. As time went by, more and more people started to feel the heat and some started to explore the root cause of the problem.

Politicians started to play their usual game of ‘pass the ball’ but the roots and the effects of the problem were so deep that the people lost their patients and didn’t want to be the spectators of the game anymore.

The rest of the world started to see all types of different villages popping up in the cities around the country and the protest campaigns forced some of the changes we have experienced so far in the political arena and in the top management of the institutions that seem to be directly responsible for the crises.

Today’s new normal requires State employees to work (well, theoretically come to office) only three days a week and when they are in their office premises, they are advised to engage in farming to prevent a food crisis in the future. With the type of reputation, the State sector institutions had about their efficiency and productivity prior to all of these new-normal(s) one can only imagine the quality of the services they provide now.

Nothing new

One might even say that Sri Lankans are so used to receiving sub-standard unprofessional service that there is nothing new in that process and most people would agree. What is even more disappointing is that a lot of people extend that sentiment to our State education system too.

They say that the schools were not educating the children properly and the universities couldn’t control ragging and all other destructive activities even prior to these crises, the so-called ‘online education’ is in fact better so that school children can get their private tutoring done and the university students can stay home and avoid all harassments by ragging thugs.

The Government authorities themselves have asked the educators to water down the examinations since students are facing all these hardships. This clearly shows the examination mentality of the stake holders of our education system, including the students and their parents. Politicians know that their constituents will be happy as long as the examination results are good irrespective of the type of knowledge the students have acquired.

People, of course, have no time to think about any of these or about how they got to this situation since they have to work for three days and stay in the line for petrol and diesel for two days and for LP gas on the other two days. At the beginning people were unhappy staying in a line for 2 – 3 hours. Now if they get the service within 6 – 10 hours they are very happy. Because average stay in line for fuel is 24 – 36 hours now.

Politicians know about this relative happiness very well and they are making the maximum use of that too. That is why people are very happy when they can stay in line for 36 hours and get some fuel during the three days that the Government announced, with a certainty, that there wouldn’t be any distribution of fuel and even asked not to stay in lines.

Moreover, there is a very interesting line culture that is emerging too. If one walks along one of these lines one would see groups of people enjoying themselves drinking beer, eating snacks, sharing jokes. Some buses that are parked in the line can be seen as mobile ‘SPAs’. Sometimes there are people who would distribute food, free of charge, to the line and other times street-food vendors can be seen walking up and down along the line.

It may even be therapeutic for some to spend the night out with their friends rather than being at home. Law-enforcement doesn’t seem to notice drinking alcohol in public places and running SPAs on parked busses. People should not forget that this is a country where some politicians, during one election campaign, announced that they would give bracelets and chewing gum to the young boys, girls, men and women if they came to power. That was their plan to develop the country. This is Basic Mental Conditioning 101.

This scenario is explained well through the popular Jewish folktale about a farmer living in a house with his wife, children and the grandparents which is so noisy and unruly.

He seeks advice from his rabbi since he feels that he would go crazy if he continued to live in those conditions. The rabbi advises him to bring his animals, first chickens, then goats and sheep into his home. The situation, of course, goes from bad to worse.


Then the rabbi suggests that the farmer put all the animals out of the house. All of them got together and cleaned the house. Then the farmer and the whole family agreed that theirs is the most spacious, peaceful, and comfortable home in the town, though they were back to their original way of living.

Another side of the line culture is the reinforcement of the selfish thoughts of the society. Though people seem to help each other out being in the line, each and every one will be happy if and when he/she gets the fuel or gas.

Some are even collecting fuel in barrels for future use without thinking about others who are suffering now without it.

No one has the time or the motivation to think about a general solution to address the cause of the problem and the rulers know that too.

The country will not experience any changes as long as people continue their thinking in the same selfish frame of reference and get adjusted to whatever the New-Normal that is created by equally selfish rulers.

The writer has served in the higher education sector as an academic over twenty years in the USA and fifteen years in Sri Lanka and he can be contacted at [email protected]