Coronavirus: what will the world be like afterwards?

What will the world really be like after the pandemic? 3 big thinkers share powerful essays

Posted by for Life

A new BBC podcast series invites big thinkers – such as Tara Westover, Emma Dabiri and Samantha Power – to share their essays on what they want to happen in a post-coronavirus world. Their compelling words give us a lot to think about.

We’ve now been in lockdown for over 100 days. Let’s just let that sit for a moment. In fact, take a few, because this stage of the coronavirus pandemic is a pretty mind-blowing marking point.

For over 100 days, we’ve avoided human contact by following social distancing rules, changed the way we live and work, and grieved the loss of more than 500,000 people globally. 

During this time, we’ve also continued to support the Black Lives Matter movement, which has forced society to address its systemic racism, following the murder of George Floyd

It’s a lot to reflect on. And, here’s the real sting: we’re still very much in the midst of it all. 

But the big questions many of us already dare to ask are: what will life really be like after Covid-19? Does it have the power to change society forever? And when, exactly, will that change come? 

These questions around life after coronavirus are explored in the BBC’s Rethink series, which is being broadcast on Radio 4, Radio 5 Live and World Service, and is available to listen to on the BBC Sounds app.

The collaborative project asks a wide range of thinkers, as well as BBC radio audiences, to consider what they want to see happen. 

It explores everything from the way we travel to how we assess individual health risks, how we look after the elderly and look out for the young, the future of globalisation, what it means to live a good life, and who we most value and reward in our society.

Thirty speakers, including Educated author Tara Westover, Don’t Touch My Hair author Emma Dabiri and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Samantha Power, have provided essays for the series.

Here’s a taster of what they have to say on the biggest issues that need discussing right now.

Tara Westover: “Coronavirus has made us aware of the many forgotten people whose hard work make our lives possible”

Educated author Westover examines how coronavirus is no great-leveller, explaining how society needs to finally show key workers the respect they are owed.

“In the early days of this pandemic, we were told that Covid-19 would be the “great equaliser” – that it would bring us together because it would affect everyone alike.

“Rich and poor, urban and rural, members of every racial group. Those with advanced degrees, and those who never finished primary school.

“The idea was that a germ is not subject to those prejudices to which human beings so often are. It is not impressed by money or dazzled by prestige. It does not see skin colour, or subscribe to stereotypes of gender. A germ is blind biology. Its one virtue was its supposed lack of prejudice.

“Of course, none of that turned out to be true.

Coronavirus: social care
"It made us aware of the many forgotten people whose hard work make our lives possible."

“The virus was not blind. It devastated men more than women; the old more than the young; and in America, where I live, and in many other places, racial minorities suffered disproportionately.

“So did the poor. So did the less educated. The virus, it turned out, was deeply prejudiced.

“But there was one meaningful way that it was in fact a kind of equaliser – it made us aware of the many forgotten people whose hard work make our lives possible.”

Listen to Tara Westover read her Rethink essay in full here.

Emma Dabiri: “Don’t say you don’t see race”

Don’t Touch My Hair author Dabiri asks listeners to move beyond identity politics and build meaningful connections.

“As the events of the last few weeks have driven home, society is stratified along racial lines. 

“Don’t say you don’t see race because if that is the case, you cannot see and certainly have not acknowledged the fact that whether you were born black or white in the UK will have a significant impact on both your life experiences and opportunities. 

“Race as we understand it today was invented in the 1600s in the English Colonial Caribbean to dehumanise black life but also to foreclose the nascent solidarity emerging between indentured Irish servants and enslaved Africans. 

“The origins of race remind us that points of solidarity strike at the heart of its rationale and such remain subversive to the hegemonic order.

A BLack Lives Matter activist holds a sign reading "Silence kills"
"Don’t say you don’t see race because if that is the case, you cannot see and certainly have not acknowledged the fact that whether you were born black or white in the UK will have a significant impact on both your life experiences and opportunities"

“As society is stratified along racial lines it makes sense that since the 1960s race, as well as gender and sexuality, are the sites around which people coalesce to organise against oppression. 

“The 1960s movements were hugely successful in the transformation of political and moral consciousness but did not achieve the necessary restructuring of society. 

“Today, our identities are more deeply entangled in the exchange value of the market. 

“When I speak of identity politics note this is inclusive of white identity politics which asserts itself in potent and violent ways.”

Listen to Emma Dabiri read her Rethink essay in full here.

Samantha Power: “This is a pandemic that respects no international borders”

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Power calls for international solidarity through a reformed global approach.

“If anything reminds us of futility of a go-it-alone mindset it is the devastation caused by a pandemic that respects no borders. 

“The elements of a reformed global system would be, first and foremost, dramatic improvements in national governance. Simply put: an intergovernmental system can’t function if the government comprising that system does not competently govern. 

“The late US diplomat Richard Holbrook once remarked that blaming the United Nations for a crisis was like blaming Madison Square Garden when the New York Nicks play badly. You are blaming a building.

“International institutions gather the best and worst habits and practises of the nation states that comprise them and Covid-19 will not change that.

Listen to Samantha Power read her Rethink essay in full here.

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Hollie Richardson

Hollie is a digital writer at, mainly covering the daily news on women’s issues, politics, celebrities and entertainment. She also keeps an ear out for the best podcast episodes to share with readers. Oh, and don’t even get her started on Outlander…