1. Jed Burkat (Brasenose)
Slavoj Zizek, beloved pop-culture icon and philosopher, has called Coronavirus a ‘perfect storm’ which ‘gives a new chance for Communism’ in Europe in a series of writings and interviews. Unfortunately for the sniffling Ljubljana Marxist, I must disagree.
If anything, the aftermath of the pandemic will strengthen the invisible hand’s grip on our lives. The high street, already struggling from the rise of online shopping, will suffer a premature death as we shop virtually again and again, out of concern for our safety. In corona-world, such shops thrive; ASOS warehouse staff have been deemed ‘essential’ and Amazon has gone unpunished in firing union leaders under pretext of safety. Neither small businesses nor the actual workers benefit from this, and it does not bode well for the future (for the love of God – pause your online shopping!)
When we finally do leave the house, social distancing – now social code – will make it difficult for small restaurants, cafes, bars to just go back to how things were. The pub around your corner does not have the same safety net that Wetherspoons can fall back on. And what will happen to climate justice and holding corporations accountable? Unless you are willing to risk a fine, you will probably sit those protests out too.
More online, broke, and physically separated than before, we are vulnerable to erosions to our freedoms, big and small – luckily, they won’t happen unless we stand idly by. As quarantine drags on, the real risk is that we become forgetful.
2. Carlotta Hartmann (Trinity)
Imagining the world after Covid-19 is, to be honest, a grim task. It is not like the mess that we were in before the pandemic will be any easier to fix – remember climate change? The when and how of this strange world are hazy, and the projections for the next few months look anything but rosy. Still, there is some joy in this dark mist of such a scenario: Coming back to Oxford in October, seeing our friends and – what? Bear hugs and cuddles when we have all just come from different continents? Even after the worst of the pandemic has passed, that doesn’t seem too plausible. I am looking forward to more creative displays of affection: handshakes are back! Not the boring ‘nice to meet you’ kind, but the Zac and Cody ten-second rituals. The added difficulty of not actually touching? Think pantomime, lots of waving at each other and running in circles. Plenty of time to practice before October.
3. George Phillips (Brasenose)
As the pandemic spreads we are consuming more news than ever before, but Coronavirus may well have sounded the death knell for print journalism.
Almost all local papers have ceased operations, many with little hope of resuming post lockdown. Nationally we have seen print runs cut drastically and major publications ask staff to accept pay cuts.
Traffic to news sites, on the other hand, is through the roof, and so too are subscription rates; the Financial Times reports a tenfold increase in paying users over the last three weeks for example. Some new customers will, of course, revert to buying a physical paper once circumstances allow. A large portion, though, will doubtless realise that an online subscription is not just more convenient, but also better value for money and richer in content.
Suddenly, the thought of an entirely digital news landscape seems plausible. The state of the industry this time next year is anyone’s guess. We can rightly assume, however, that as people increasingly look to the web for their news fix, print newspapers are well and truly on their way to becoming extinct. After all, it was only a matter of time.
4. Amelia Wood (Balliol)
Once this is all over, the Conservatives will find themselves in a sticky situation. Having left the responsibility of the last global recession firmly at Labour’s door, they will struggle to do the same with this one. The opposition already has plenty of ammunition, from the failure to deliver large-scale testing to the government’s initially cavalier approach. What would have been the right tack is a question that will take years of inquests and articles to unpack.
The Tories would be right to be concerned. Look at Corbyn’s trials with anti-Semitism, or Hilary and her emails, any story that lasts is a story that does lasting damage. From the highs of his election landslide, Johnson will find his term dominated by this pandemic and the slow recovery from it.
As for the planet, there are crystal clear waters in Venice for the first time in living memory, animals across the globe have reclaimed the land, and air pollution has plummeted. But the healing will not last. When the virus has receded, we will return to our normal lives, the waters will muddy, the animals will retreat, and the air will be replaced by smog. Stasis is always easier than change, and the changes we need to make are impossibly hard. My guess is that the coronavirus will leave its impression on the political landscape, but not the actual one.
5. Natasha Voase (Keble)
We are clapping for our carers every week and demanding that they be given a pay rise. The Conservative government is promising to borrow billions to underwrite people’s wages and Boris Johnson put the nail in the Thatcherite coffin by saying that there really is such a thing as society. An optimist might see this as a turning point for the establishment of a fairer, more compassionate, and more unified society.
However, those who are convinced that a smiling socialist utopia is around the corner waiting for us are mistaken. The 2008 financial crisis, which revealed the cracks in the global capitalist order did not usher in an era of socialism and nor will this. As with the austerity imposed by Conservative governments since 2010, the carers we cheer for this week will be those hardest hit next week. Tory MPs cheered when they blocked pay rises for nurses in 2017, and the quiet decision to give these same MPs £10,000 to cope with the hardship of working from home proves the inclinations of our leaders. The current crisis will not be a great leveller unless we force our leaders to make it so.