When Change Becomes Permanent?

The cultural shift brought about by Covid-19 could become permanent. That has huge potential implications for us all.

When Change Becomes Permanent?

Let me acknowledge from the outset that what I am about to write may be fanciful. It could be equal parts wishful thinking, pessimistic and optimistic. That will depend entirely on your perspective about whether the possible changes I discuss are a move in the right direction.

Although mankind is widely considered to have a short memory I suspect the impact of Covid-19 will be with us for many years to come. Long after the lockdowns have ceased and the alarmism diminished, some of the recent behavioural changes will remain with us.

Many people have now come to realise that what they were previously chasing was a mirage. The pursuit of wealth led to a treadmill of work, credit, consumption and more work to pay the bills in a never ending cycle. Seldom was there a goal in mind other than to have more 'stuff' simply because it was a means of keeping score.

Naturally governments and businesses love that mindset. Workers pay tax and consumers generate profits. Without realising it, individuals have become the voluntary serfs of corporates and the state.

Now that's all good and well because, in spite of the cultural pressure, people are still free to choose the lifestyle they want to live.  However, thanks to Covid-19 more people are now aware that there is an alternative.

Some have grown used to getting the 'free' money from taxpayers for doing little or no work. It's freed them up to maximise their netflix subscription and sleep in. They'll be in for a rude shock when the welfare tap runs dry.

Others will have recognised that the treadmill isn't all that it was cracked up to be. Living with less and on less doesn't necessarily mean your quality of life is reduced. There is pleasure and joy from spending time with family, enjoying parks and books and not rushing from one pressing appointment to another.

I suspect that realisation won't go away, even when the demands of 'normal' life return. This is when the profound cultural shift may be seen.

If people don't want to go back to their old ways, what does that mean for the country? If the 50 per cent of people who actually pay net tax in this country decide that they don't need to consume as much to enjoy life, they may also decide they don't need to work as much.

They may decide to surrender their serfdom and reclaim their lives. That will deliver less tax to government and generate lower profits for business with the corresponding flow on effects through society.

Globally we've already seen the exodus of millions from big cities in pursuit of a better lifestyle for them and their families. Who knows if they will ever return.

What if more people realise that the system hasn't been working for them and they decide to go down a different path? That will put increasing pressure of the already brittle services that depend on a relative few for fiscal sustainability.

It wouldn't take much for the system as we know it to crumble.

This is where you need to make up your own mind.

Is a less is more mindset a step in the right direction or not? Are people moving out of the cities a positive or negative? What if the workers who decide to opt out are involved in essential services?

In the USA we've seen how quickly things can degenerate when the police give up on their job. Imagine if the medical teams, emergency services personnel and rubbish collection crews decide they can't really be bothered working the way they used to anymore.

Who would be left to pick up the slack when so many in our country have already decided they don't need to work.

It's an interesting scenario that only time will resolve but if the Covid-19 mindset continues, the changes for us all could be quite dramatic.

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