The 'Pandemial Generation': How COVID is already beginning to shape our future
Globalisation, millennials, post-modernity... Labels with which we order our world in the light of social changes. Now we face yet another twist: are we pandemials?
We live in pandemic times that are provoking social changes that are not at all gradual: teleworking has become a reality for a majority of workers who used to go to offices, we have become accustomed to talking about family "bubbles," social distance and reduced our activities in public or greeting each other with our elbows. And there are even those who have been dreaming of wearing a mask for the past year.
As has happened with other phenomena in our history — neoliberalism, post-modernity, globalization, the emergence of the millennial and Z generations... — media and academia have been trying to find a way to deal with these phenomena.
Because, somehow, only what is named can exist. And this is a reality for everyone.
Last week, the Argentine newspaper Clarín published an interview with the economist Federico Domínguez, who has just published a book in which he reflects on the new generation of these times, the "pandemials," and the political, social and economic challenges they face. As well as the new philosophy of life that is being born around them.
In La Rebelión de los Pandemials (Editores Argentinos), Domínguez narrows down the term to remind us that not all of us are pandemials.
"Pandemials are those young people who are entering the world of work along with the COVID-19 crisis," he says.
The economist describes this new generation in an optimistic way, as people with "strong ethical values and ecological awareness because they were born knowing that the planet is at risk."
Pandemials, in short, go out into the world to find themselves in societies where uncertainty, loneliness, resource depletion, the digital bubble and the end of meritocracy are our daily bread. Many of them, in search of a model with which to face these new times, are looking for the key in the past: in utopias of the 20th century and old systems.
For Federico Domínguez, the future will be even more liberal than the present, and he asserts this by analyzing the Human Cycles — the Cycle of Inequity, the Cycle of Nature, the Cycle of Technologies and the Cycle of the Human Spirit — and points out that while liberalism seemed to be the ideology for all, it has ended up being "a cruise ship company managed by its own elite."
In other words, very little of the essence of the original liberalism remains, and even the concept of "meritocracy" has been blurred and is almost a euphemism these days.
Although the book postulates that new approaches are needed to confront the political and economic problems of this situation brought about by the pandemic - to which we must add the other problems we were already facing, such as climate change - and it is urgent to create a new global political agenda that seeks to democratize knowledge (how strange that in the digital era it is still a commodity in the hands of a few, "banned" and controlled) and lower taxes, liberalism will remain, and with greater force.
That is Domínguez's thesis in La Rebelión de los Pandemials, because the lifestyle based on hedonism and individualism will remain in place. This is his prediction:
"The Decade of Turbulence" — that of 2020-2029 — will be complex, intense and transformative. At times it will seem that authoritarians will prevail, that liberalism will seem to be relegated and that young people will march in the name of some populism to set cities on fire in different parts of the planet. But in the end, as has happened time and again throughout its 250-plus year history, liberalism will triumph. It will do so because of the economic, technological and social superiority that emerges from its formulations, institutions and the freedoms it offers. And it will do so because the citizens who live under the benefits of this system will not want to go back".
But don't be fooled by the word "rebellion" — although it seems more a wish than a future trend — because the society that Domínguez draws is characterised by the suppression of freedoms, especially in light of the social networks that have become the landscape and refuge of the pandemials and the attempts of the platforms to extend their control by investing in AI.
A political-economic landscape that is like the carrot and the horse and where no one can leave the fold. A fortress or an invisible megastructure of containment of dissent.
The question is whether the pandemials can really bring about a revolution that will dynamite the toxicities of extreme liberalism for a more humane world, or whether they will continue to thumb their cyber-thumbs and share in a bubble of viral threats and uncertainty.