Normal… By Kumi Naidoo

We are all desperate to get back to normal, but should we?


What an average word

So uninspired…It’s actually absurd

In a time when we have been forced to change our ways

To pause and isolate and dream of better days

That we’d ever yearn for the world of yesteryear

A world so divided

So fragmented by fear

It’s mind-boggling at best

That we might just blow mother nature’s test

Longing for the same madness

That put us in this global sadness

Of me first and screw you

And buy-four-for-the-price-of-two

Surely getting back to normal can’t be our aim

After all of the sacrifices, death and pain

Yes, this pandemic has brought us to our knees

Cutting jobs and highlighting inequality

Our leaders are exposed

And the broken systems they have imposed

Are now obviously not making any sense

So, why do we obsess

And resist what needs to be

The end to these failed economic schemes and political machines

That weaken and divide

Leaving only the elite satisfied

No, we have to be better than this!

And if not for ourselves, we must for our kin

Our children and their children and the ones after them

Thankfully, our youth has far more motivation

To take action and end the years of frustration

By breaking down the walls we’ve created

And the inequality that is so outdated

So, now what are YOU going to do

Let’s hope it’s something substantially new

To keep building post Corona

A human existence that is far from over

Learning from our lessons

Respecting all persons

Especially our healthcare and essential workers

Who were invisible to too many of us before this pandemic

And never again, lest we forget

What and who really matters

Even when all hope scatters

Because this tragedy surely must be

Our big opportunity

To look beyond what has always been

And build a world that we can all thrive in.

Kumi Naidoo is a human rights and environmental activist from South Africa. He was Executive Director of Greenpeace International from 2009 to 2016 and Secretary General of Amnesty International from 2018 to 2020. He is Founding Chair of Africans Rising for Justice and is currently a Fellow at the Robert Bosch Academy in Berlin where he is exploring big questions such as why political activism fails to make the changes needed, and why the rate of progress is so slow and misaligned with science’s urgent realities. Together with Berlin-based artist Olafur Eliasson, he is looking into the possibilities that ‘artivism’ offers to make the messages of climate justice, economic justice, and other struggles more accessible to a much larger audience.

Further resources

Kumi Naidoo at the Robert Bosch Academy & “We can turn things around

Conversation between Kumi Naidoo and Olafur Eliasson at COP 26 in Glasgow 2021 

The Function of Art, The Rights Studio

Interview with Kumi Naidoo: “We are basically saying to young people, your lives don’t matter.“

“Kumi Naidoo gets real on COP26, burnout, grief, his new book and life after Amnesty International,”  IOL South Africa.

Africans Rising, a Pan-African movement of people and organisations working for peace, justice and dignity.