For Social Work, hunger for “normal” and aim to “build back better” just don’t mix

January 6, 2021

As crazy as things were in 2020 (and still are as we slide painfully into 2021), nothing is more natural and predictable than a deep desire to “get back to normal.” No more pandemic, no more collapsing economy, no more skyrocketing poverty, breadlines and threats of eviction, no more ugly politics. Amen!

At the same time, just about everybody, regardless of race, gender, class, or political affiliation, knows that a return to the so-called “normal,” pre-Covid and pre-Trump, just isn’t going to cut it. The problems are too many, the urgency of corrective action too intense. Hence at least the second most popular wish after the return to normalcy, i.e. to “build back better.”

Unfortunately, those two desires don’t square. At this stage of the game, “normal” will not be “better.” “Normal” is a plethora of unjust structures and systems along racial, gender, and class lines. “Normal” is a corporate-controlled economic order driving a rapidly expanding precariat work force. “Normal” is a corrupt political system captive to existing concentrations of wealth and power and flirting with fascist styles of thought and behavior. “Normal” is civic ignorance and anti-democratic propaganda on a mass scale. “Normal” is an eco-suicidal course of collective inaction in face of climate catastrophe.

No, social workers don’t want “normal,” and don’t believe we can afford to “get back to normal.” We do want to “build back better” – radically better.

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