AT first, it may sound incredibly bizarre to suggest that the coronavirus lockdowns many countries had put in place a just over a year ago could be used as the foundation for a renaissance of the 21st century. Take a closer look and see how it may have been a ‘renaissance moment’ if the aftermath is manipulated appropriately.
The world was silent. Aside from the presence of a handful of ‘essential workers’, law enforcement officials and the chirping of birds, there was an unusually quiet atmosphere as much of the world stayed at home under lockdown. The purpose was to hold back the coronavirus long enough to prepare for the impending catastrophe. At the time, many described this as a major ‘reset’ moment for the world.
At its height during the 15th century, the Renaissance (literally ‘rebirth’) was well underway in Europe. As new ideas were born and scientific discoveries took place during this period, the Renaissance contributed to the Age of Discovery. Europeans looked towards distant lands for trade and expansion. Therefore, discoveries that were made during the Renaissance undoubtedly influenced, and enabled, colonisation. More than 500 years later, it is evident that colonialism had a negative impact on the people of colonised territories.
Although many of the advancements made during the Renaissance were undoubtedly beneficial, the unintended consequences resulting in a world plagued by inequality, poverty and many other unjust reverberations of colonialism are undeniable.
Having acknowledged the similarities between the Renaissance and lockdown, in the sense that both were moments when the status quo was disrupted, the question then arises: if manipulated appropriately, could the lockdown be used to undo the negative effects of the Renaissance and, in the process, get the wheels rolling for an ‘African Renaissance’?
Quite frankly, yes. How likely is this? Not quite. The lockdown has presented leaders with a great opportunity to introduce reforms that could potentially undo the injustices of colonialism as we awaken to a ‘new normal’.
By carefully manipulating the aftermath in a manner that rebuilds an inclusive economy, excluded minorities could now be given an opportunity to participate in the economy and thus be uplifted. Perhaps, to some extent, this opportunity might even extend beyond addressing economic disparities.
The way the world functions in the new normal reality could also be redesigned to do away with the practices that have brought us to a dangerous point with regard to global warming and climate change. As many people migrate to the digital way of life, hopefully, carbon emissions can be reduced enough to halt the impending catastrophe human civilisation has engineered. The pandemic has taught us that it is possible to switch to an eco-friendly lifestyle.
The economy can – and must – be rebuilt in a way that it serves everyone. The South African economy crumbled further with the implementation of a lockdown. However, soon after the government began easing lockdown restrictions, attention turned to how the economy would be rebuilt.
Surely, this is an opportunity to rebuild – or at least lay the foundation for – an entirely new economy that is inclusive. Experts have already suggested ways in which this may be achieved. With the pandemic having exposed the harsh reality of inequality, it is clear that priorities must be reset to allow us to bridge the gap quicker.
One of the greatest lessons that the pandemic has taught us is that the status quo that existed up until the world was shocked into the unprecedented new reality is simply unsustainable. In planning for a post-COVID world, we must acknowledge the reality of injustice that existed in society prior to the pandemic.
The new normal must be built around a model that is inclusive and green, one that puts people and the planet first. Should leaders fail to do so, the horrid status quo will remain unchanged.
In conclusion, it is clear that the aftermath of the lockdown can be used to undo the negative effects of the Renaissance and thus pave the way for an ‘African Renaissance’. However, this may only be possible if the foundation of the post-COVID world is laid on new principles, and may only be likely if there is a genuine determination from leaders to do so.
Zahid Jadwat is a South African socio-political writer, broadcast journalist and podcaster. He hosts The Special Focus on Salaamedia. Follow him on Twitter: @zahidjadwat.
Featured image: On Friday, March 27, 2020, the first day of the national lockdown, the normally bustling city centre of Cape Town, like many places around the world, fell silent. The writer argues that the lockdown can be used as an opportunity for an ‘African Renaissance’. (Photo JASON HOWES)