'Normal was very problematic': UCC lecturer releases new book based on his thoughts around Covid pandemic

UCC’s Dr Vittorio Bufacchi has written a new book based on his thoughts on the pandemic. Maeve Lee asks him how society must change after Covid-19
'Normal was very problematic': UCC lecturer releases new book based on his thoughts around Covid pandemic

Dr Vittorio Bufacchi has been a lecturer in philosophy at University College Cork (UCC) for 20 years.

WHEN Ireland first went into lockdown last March, senior lecturer in Philosophy, Dr Vittorio Bufacchi began compiling his thoughts and reflecting on what was happening in the world.

Dr Vittorio Bufacchi has been a lecturer in philosophy at University College Cork (UCC) for 20 years.

Everything Must Change: Philosophical Lessons from Lockdown questions whether the Covid-19 pandemic was a “global misfortune” or rather something which should be thought of as “exposing the structural injustice of our society”.

“It was just a way for me to make sense of what was going on, using the only tools that I have which is philosophical analysis,” explained Dr Bufacchi.

“It starts with philosophical views about death because I think that’s really what was in the back of everyone’s mind when the pandemic came to us but from there, I really used the pandemic as a way of looking at the way politics and ethics responded to the crisis.”

The book is about what we can learn from Covid-19, as individuals but also collectively and argues that this crisis could change our lives for the better, ushering in a more just society.

The title of the book refers to the common phrase on the hopes of returning ‘back to normal’ and the continued questioning about a return to ‘normal’ life.

“The title is a critique of this rhetoric of ‘when will things go back to normal?’ and my argument is, if we’ve learned anything from the last 12 months, it’s that normal was very problematic.

“We don’t want to go back to normal, we need to rethink some fundamental issues in politics and society.”

Dr Bufacchi stated that there have been warning signs and within the book, he explores the pandemic and its impact.

“The people that suffered most in the pandemic were the vulnerable people and so a society that is structurally based on inequality, means that the people who are most vulnerable will suffer more and so the evidence that is coming out from what we know now is that certain ethnic groups, certain social classes have suffered disproportionately from the pandemic.

“That’s because there were inequalities that people accepted and took for granted that were exposed…and so it’s really exploring those inequalities,” he added.

He began writing the book during the first lockdown in March when he became immediately aware of his privilege with a comfortable home, a garden and a library.

“I started to reflect on how lucky I was and how lucky I was to be able to work from home and then of course, that makes you realise how other people are not so lucky.

“We kept being told to wash our hands. Sanitation is just not there in more than half of the world population so how are people supposed to wash their hands if there is no running water and those are global issues of global inequality.”

The book includes a chapter on the spike in domestic violence during the lockdown and utilises the TV adaptation of Sally Rooney’s Normal people which he described as “one of the cultural highlights” during the first lockdown in 2020.

Dr Bufacchi has previously written on the topics of social injustice and domestic violence within his books Violence and Social Justice and Social Injustice.

However, unlike much of his previous work, Everything Must Change is not an academic book but rather a means of putting his knowledge across “in a way that is very accessible”.

The book explores eight themes through philosophical lenses and ends by considering the spike of reported domestic violence cases during the lockdown through Normal People.

“I think that one really important theme in the book [Normal People] which is just hinted at, that’s really crucial is the domestic violence.

“In the chapter, I kind of pick up those references to domestic violence and I talk about domestic violence during the pandemic,” he added.

Dr Bufacchi wrote the book as events were happening around him and completed it in November of last year.

He described the ability to compile his thoughts during the pandemic as “therapeutic”.

“I think it’s my way of thinking. If I need to kind of think through a problem, I need to put pen to paper and even though in some ways it was difficult, I was almost doing it as a way of reflecting. It also gave me discipline in a time when all out bearings were lost,” he added.

Everything Must Change: Philosophical Lessons From Lockdown, published by Manchester University Press, is available to pre-order now and is due to be released in June 2021.

“There is a lot of learning and thinking to do about what has just happened and I hope the book will help get people to think; ok what have we just gone through, what should we have done differently, what can we do to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” added Dr Bufacchi.

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