Problematizing the "New Normal": Prolegomenon to (Post) Pandemic Theologizing
Daniel Franklin E. Pilario, CM
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As a prolegomenon to post-pandemic theologizing, this article critically examines the notion of the “normal” as is currently employed in socio-cultural and political discourses. By confronting it with the philosophical normalization process in Michel Foucault, it intends to unmask disciplinary power inherent in discursive formations used in Duterte’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis and beyond. From medieval exclusionary-segregation approaches to social diseases like leprosy in pursuit of a “pure” community, Foucault observes the shift to bureaucratic surveillance through quarantine (and panopticon) as modern approaches to plagues, crime, and other social problems. The modern solution was more benign but equally disciplinary. In this article, I argue that Duterte’s present approach is a regression to the medieval program of “cleaning” society where people who do not conform to his social vision—the sick, dissenters, drug addicts, etc.—are banished from society. Consistent with his populist rhetoric, society has been divided into “us” versus “them” to the detriment of the poor and the vulnerable. A post-pandemic theology not cognizant of this disciplinary power is at best naïve and at worst harmful to theological reflection and the Christian community.

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