Una Mullally: We are changing, so why aren’t the systems of society?

If the pandemic induced personal growth, how can that be reflected by the State?

Socialising in Temple Bar following the easing of Covid-19 restrictions: The Taoiseach pulled a rabbit from a hat, and in a puff of smoke, the pandemic was gone. In reality, that’s not exactly the case. Photograph: Damien Storan/PA

Socialising in Temple Bar following the easing of Covid-19 restrictions: The Taoiseach pulled a rabbit from a hat, and in a puff of smoke, the pandemic was gone. In reality, that’s not exactly the case. Photograph: Damien Storan/PA

A friend of mine in a band known for relentless touring, once told me a story about them arriving back home after a long stint on the road. When he pulled up to his home, he ended up sleeping in the van that night, even though his actual bedroom was right there in front of him. “We are ostriches,” he said, “and tour is our sand.”

Throughout the pandemic, we were repeatedly told that it’s easier to lockdown than it is to open up, the intimation being that a lockdown – as dramatic and destructive as it is – has a blunt simplicity to it, compared with the messiness of re-emergence. This messiness is not simply logistical in terms of society. We have also internalised it. We are products of our environments. As we repeat behaviours, we form habits, and when a context changes it can be hard to click into the new rhythm, even if that rhythm was once very familiar. Between Friday and Saturday last week, everything changed. The restrictions were lifted with the drama and surrealism of a magic trick. In front of his podium, the Taoiseach pulled a rabbit from a hat, and in a puff of smoke, the pandemic was gone. In reality, that’s not exactly the case. Covid-19 still exists, loads of people are still going to get it, but we all know the reasons why the Omicron variant is not as worrisome.  

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