Illustration by Wendy Fox

A few years back, when Paper Giant was not much more than a name and two designer-researchers fresh out of academia, I conducted some research into social isolation – specifically ways that telehealth technology could play a role in reducing isolation among elderly people and people living with disability in the regional Queensland town of Toowoomba.

Some of the findings from that report remain relevant today (we’ve shared them below). What’s interesting about it for me, is that the needs of the people I spoke to haven’t really changed as a result of COVID-19. These findings remain relevant because a) these needs have still not been addressed, and, b) now more of us are experiencing the hardship and indignity that the people I spoke to had been living with for years or decades.

This pandemic has shone a bright light on societal failure that was already there to begin with: payments for unemployed people were too low to actually live on. Essential workers were underpaid, undervalued and overworked. The hospital system was fragmented and underresourced.

Many of the things we need to survive this pandemic are the same things we need to live with dignity at all times.

Support for those isolated, a safety net that provides a living wage without the punitive demands of ‘mutual obligation’, and a society that prioritises care for the most vulnerable – if we can provide that now, in the midst of a health and economic crisis, why couldn’t we do it before?

All this talk of reopening the economy quickly, of the ‘snapback’ to normal, shows that those who benefit from the status quo are afraid of this kind of political awakening. 

But why focus on getting us back to ‘normal’, when ‘normal’ was, in many ways, awful?

Why not take this opportunity to pause, to rethink, and to make our recovery one that invests in a new future that is better than what we had before – so that people can live with dignity, pandemic or not?

— Dr. Reuben Stanton and the PG Team

Read the rest of Issue #56 here