We seem to have collectively stumbled into a dystopian novel. Or a disaster movie. It’s like we are waiting for someone to shout ‘Cut!’ and we can go back to normal life.
I had thought it would take a new world war to reduce the global population, exhume the negative energy within our species and level out humanity’s greed. That may still be the case, but this pandemic is giving us a pretty good dress rehearsal.
There is no other story in the news. It’s wall-to-wall corona virus. And as we increasingly work from home, with the 24-hour rolling news cycle it can become all-consuming. Family conversations, online chats and posts – there really is no escape.
And as we line up to condemn the panic-buyers and hoarders, we can’t help but glance at our own fridges, freezers and cupboards and wonder if we have enough. Should we fill our cars with petrol? Should we buy those unfamiliar rice sachets, that tinned meat, the long-life milk that always tastes so awful?
Our leaders really are in a no-win situation. Whether to go draconian or try to pace the hysteria. I’m reminded of the periodic snow plough arguments. How the UK is occasionally paralysed by infrequent snowfall, which results in mass calls for better preparation. To be followed inevitably by images of idle snow ploughs on every motorway “just in case” and the ensuing chorus of what a waste of money. Sometimes you really can’t win.
We are the rarest species. Capable of great achievement and great stupidity. Incredibly moving compassion and shocking selfishness. Some gaze admiringly at the great minds of the day and others lick their lips at how they can profit from others’ genius and the masses’ deepest fears. For every selfless good Samaritan lending a hand, there is a huckster ready to line their own pockets.
This crisis will bring out the best and worst in all of us. And whilst it will be tempting to make judgements on others, the recent commentary about mental well-being should be remembered: You really have no idea what someone else is going through or dealing with – so try to be kind. You see six loaves of bread in their basket and think them excessive; they see what they can afford, as they stress about feeding a family for the next week, with very little money.
It’s useful at times like these to reflect on some other things that we may all agree on:
- Our stretched National Health Service staff are usually doing their very best to help us (whilst taking care of their own family/friends)
- Most of us love our Mums, family and friends – and want them to be OK
- We have absolutely got to try and find a way to have a laugh about all this – no matter how bad it gets, if we lose our sense of humour then we really are doomed
I remember when I first moved to Watford many years ago, I lived in a pretty crummy bedsit for a number of months. I had a single oven ring to cook and had to go to the launderette every Sunday to wash my clothes. I’d wander down the road with a black sack over my shoulder and sit there watching the spin cycles as the flies buzzed in the windows and the smell of washing powder filled my nose.
Why do I mention this? It’s because to this day I still appreciate having my own washing machine in my home. And I’ve always believed that a period of going without does you good. It really makes you appreciate things so much more.
So when this is all over – and it will be over – I hope that we emerge with a renewed appreciation of those simple things. Being out and about, meeting friends, going to the movies, getting together with family, having a holiday (whether an expensive cruise, or a modest weekend by the sea).
And even more – a hug, a kiss, feeling free and confident to just enjoy those simple pleasures that we took for granted, but will be recognised as precious again.
And – if you will permit me – to say that the world really keeps turning not because of bankers, IT experts, politicians, rock stars, football players or TV personalities.
It keeps turning because of the people that get up and go out to do the jobs that really make a difference to our day-to-day lives: the shop workers, the NHS (of course), the bus/train/delivery drivers, the public service workforce, the cleaners, the teachers – and anyone else I’ve forgotten who basically make life liveable for the rest of us.
Stay safe. Be well. Look after yourselves and each other. And let’s meet again on the other side of these dark days.