Fear. Joy. Fear. (for fuck’s sake, be more kind)
Firstly, I’ll have to give an appreciative nod to my friend and rock-legend, Frank Turner for the partial theft of his lyrics. Be More Kind. Those three words fit so well here.
I’ve toyed for weeks with the idea of writing some blog piece about the times we are living in. I mean, if someone would have told me six months ago that there would be a global pandemic and we’d be literally locked down and forced to stay indoors without all but our closest loved ones, I would have smiled politely and hoped they’d leave.
But this is the reality of the times that we are in. I write this piece as we are approaching a potentially catastrophic time where the greed of the capitalist world is being put before the health of the nation; the world. We are inventing new phrases like ‘air bridges’ as an excuse to reboot the tourism industry. We’ve reduced two metres to a metre so we can reboot hospitality. We’ve been locked down and now we are ‘safe’ to return to normal. I may be in the minority, but I don’t want a return to normal.
When the government closed down the country for me there was one overriding emotion. Fear.
Fear that someone we loved could lose their lives. Fear that my at-risk parents wouldn’t make it through. Fear that everything we touched was infected in some way. Fear that there could be bodies piled up in the streets. Seriously.
But after a week or two, fear was replaced with a much more positive emotion. Joy.
That joy came from the stories of hope and happiness that surrounded us all. Our wonderful NHS staff, our policemen, our firemen putting their own lives at risk for others. Our teachers, shop assistants, delivery drivers, hauliers, postmen, refuse collectors (and many more) helping to keep the country moving. Neighbours who rarely spoke offering to help those isolated and afraid. People going out of their way to provide for others. A hundred year old man who still wanted to do his bit; and succeeded spectacularly. Friends, colleagues, acquaintances slowing down for a moment to reconnect. To take some time and widen the narrow focus of our lives. To properly think about others again. There was an overall feeling that the human race was at last pulling together.
But as time slips by, my joy has dissipated at the same rate as new virus cases, and once again has been replaced by fear. This is a different type of fear. This is the fear that comes from the grim realisation that the world in general hasn’t learned a thing. We are all racing headlong to get back to normal, when normal wasn’t a nice place to be. It was greedy, it was selfish and it was self-centred. Normal was the place that was experiencing record high levels of poverty. Normal was where mental health problems were out of control. Suicide was at an all-time high in normal. What we called normal was looking out for your own and screw the rest. There was simply no time to properly think of others in the old normal. For crying out loud, we had enough on just thinking about ourselves.
And so most of us will beam that we’ve made it through to the other side. We’ll quickly forget how scared we were at first. We’ll forget that feeling of togetherness that briefly washed over us. And we’ll go back to being the society we were before. And the only ones that will truly carry the burden for us all will be those who have sadly lost someone in this global disaster.
And now that the world has tired of the pandemic, the news will be filled with something else. The press will resume their day to day dripping of poison into our ears. Global fear will become prevalent again and we will all slip back into our narrow, selfish way of life. Nations are already being turned against one another. Blame. Distrust. Hate. And the human race slips seamlessly back into the dog-eat-dog, I’m-alright-Jack mentality. Humans against humans. Welcome back to normal. It’s business as usual.
Can we not learn a lesson from this? Maybe, maybe not. It all begins with each individual attitude. Let’s not forget how close we all came. And we are not yet through it - there is a long, long way to go. My deepest sympathies are with those who have lost someone in this terrible time. Their lives are immutably changed. Altered forever.
As for the rest of us, can we please just consider how lucky we are? And for fuck’s sake, Be More Kind.