Commemorating the End of Outdoor Mask Mandate
Commemorating the End of Outdoor Mask Mandate
  • Reporter Yim O-Jung
  • 승인 2022.05.15 01:08
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Reporter Yim O-jung
Reporter Yim O-jung

It has already been more than two years since COVID-19 changed our lives. Following the implementation of several living with COVID-19 strategies, the Korean government lifted the outdoor mask mandate on May 2, at the time of writing this column. To me, it is one of the most symbolic measures to recover towards a normal life and move away from the pandemic. Following the Black Death, smallpox, and the 1918 flu pandemic, humanity is likely to fight off another battle against future pathogens. Like many infectious diseases in history, humanity will soon overcome COVID-19 and we will return to normal life.
But the last two years have made an irreversible difference for us. Countries locked their doors and stopped interacting. As a result, production, trade, consumption, logistics, and tourism plunged, resulting in a global economic downturn, and fluctuations in the stock market. Polarization has become more prominent in terms of securing vaccines and medical infrastructure worldwide. Beyond social and economic issues, it also had a lot of influence on individuals. People who were quarantined due to infectious diseases may suffer mental health problems because of a long period of disconnection. Above all, many of our relationships are become disconnected, and many of us feel lonely and isolated.
Nevertheless, humanity is trying to make another breakthrough amid the crisis. For example, through non-face-to-face education, such as preparing experimental classes using VR, POSTECH was able to escape regional limitations. Such an attempt could not have been made without COVID-19, but this difficulty served as a good opportunity.
Still, the loss of communication is deeply worrisome. Some scholars predict that the influence of COVID-19 will accelerate human alienation, relationship disconnection, and communication reduction. This is because people have not been able to face each other for a long time but only interacting through the ZOOM screen on the computer. Some also predict that our loneliness will get worse. In her book “The Lonely Century,” English economist Noreena Hertz argued that loneliness is becoming the defining condition of the 21st century. She points out that modern people in the 21st century, who live trapped in smartphones, non-face-to-face systems in cities, and surveillance labor, were already in chronic isolation before the outbreak of COVID-19. Various risk factors in modern society, such as materialism and human alienation, hatred and cynicism of politics, and community breakdown, were analyzed focusing on the common keyword of ‘loneliness’. Furthermore, she warned that after the epidemic is swept away, the world would face the severe aftermath of loneliness. Nevertheless, as social animals, we are trying to interact with others. Efforts are being made to continue communication even in non-contact situations due to the pandemic, such as creating a metaverse platform.
Our efforts remind me of two past figures, Paik Nam-jun and George Orwell. In Orwell’s novel, “1984,” published in 1949, Orwell suggested that mankind would be dominated by mass media such as television. Paik Nam-jun, a video artist born in Korea, showed Orwell’s prediction was wrong by presenting “Good Morning, Mr. Orwell,” the world's first live TV show to use a satellite on January 1, 1984, to raise the positive side of mass media.
Just as Paik showed the world that Orwell was wrong more than 40 years ago, I hope that decades will pass by and that mankind will confidently shout “Good Morning, Ms. Hertz” and say that Noreena Hertz's prediction is wrong and that we are living a more vivid future far from loneliness.