Things will never be the same again”: one of the most overused and often just plain wrong of clichés, often trotted out in far less seismic times than today. In adversity, many of us catastrophise, unable because of worry, pressure and fear to see beyond the short term.
We can’t see through to the next pay cheque, or paying the rent or mortgage, let alone a return to the status quo. But, usually, things do return remarkably quickly – look at the record bull market that followed the financial crash of 2008. But, this time?
This time, it really will feel different, because this time the changes that actually do come after seismic events will not be unseen in the technological ether or complex financial and political institutions, but tangible in our everyday lives.
Some of us realised that belatedly this past week when British Airways announced first the proposed lay-off of 12,000, one third of its staff, and then said it may never return to Gatwick, Britain’s second largest airport – tumultuous, particularly for the town of Crawley.
Health always trumps the economy, yes? Of course, the thousands of us who have lost a loved one to COVID19 have had our lives changed irrevocably, but beyond a couple of degrees of separation many more are confronted with a scary new reality. Let’s be brutal: it was sad when Laura Ashley, Debenhams, Carluccio’s, Oasis, Warehouse and so many others announced administration or worse, and horrendous for those laid off, but not really surprising. But, British Airways?
As the world’s most famous investor, Warren Buffett, divests all his airline stakes, Ryanair restructures and says out loud what all airlines are wondering: how can they survive if they have to leave the middle seat empty, with four-hour queues to board, face masks. The same challenges are faced by retailers, restaurants, bars, gyms, hairdressers, concert venues, sports franchises, estate agents and transport systems.
The list genuinely is endless. I’ve quoted Bill Gates before: “People overestimate the change that will happen in two years and underestimate the change that will happen in ten”. But, this time the change is upon us now.
And we will all have to wrap our minds around the idea that come September everything will not actually start going back to normal, like after 2008. It is the normal that will be redefined. It already has been.