In the last few weeks there has been encouraging announcements about Covid-19 vaccines, on the 2nd December the UK’s most recent lockdown (lockdown lite) ended, and the rules governing social gatherings are being relaxed for Christmas. Light at the end of the tunnel I guess, though a recognisable normality is unlikely to return until the spring or early summer of 2021. As we rest, recharge, and briefly gather (in small groups of course) over Christmas and New Year what are we to make of this pandemic and what it tells us about society. What, if anything at all, does it or should it mean to us?
For many people their lives will simply not be the same again. Their loved ones are no longer with them. Businesses have been ruined and some will not bounce back. Jobs have been lost and careers disrupted. These are difficult situations for anyone to face, and yet life has this rather annoying habit of continuing regardless of what happens to us. Forward, onwards and upwards we go, whether you feel ready for it or not.
It will be of precious little comfort to anyone that this pandemic hasn’t been anywhere near as lethal as the Black Death. It is estimated that it killed between 30-50% of Europe’s population in the 14th century. But for the survivors this then meant that they could negotiate higher wages, and it sparked other social changes too. The upheaval caused by the Black Death has been cited as one of the causes of the Renaissance. When the medieval mind began to morph into the modern mind.
Equally, could this period of social isolation and disruption be used in a positive way as a catalyst for social change? Ask yourself what you have noticed about the world, the way we organise our society, and even about yourself during the last 9 months. Here are some of the things that I have noticed –
- There is a magic money tree after all. Since the 2007-2008 Financial Crisis we have been fed a diet of financial rectitude, labelled as austerity. We were told by our politicians that there was no magical money tree with which we could solve life’s problems. And yet as soon as we entered this viral mess, money was created to stop us all starving and, as a result overthrowing the government. Money was found to home homeless people too, for a while anyway. Maybe the popular narrative about money and debt is false.
- We discovered whose jobs were really essential. It was the low paid workers who kept the lights on, the water running, the supply chain full of food, and the sick cared for. What have all the highly paid executives been doing during these last 9 months?
- The purpose of school is childcare so that parents can work. The primary reason to open schools has been to get people back to work to prop up our consumer economy. Education is important, I should know, it’s the field I work in. But the underlying need to open schools was more to do with the economy than children’s education and well-being. Makes you wonder what the content of the education is when that’s the case.
- The wild conspiracy theories doing the rounds at the start of the pandemic haven’t been proven to be true. Or, just for any diehards out there, not yet anyway.
- What have we missed the most? Social interaction with friends and family. So what is really important to us?
As I reflect on all of this it has highlighted that we are living in End Stage Capitalism, where the vast majority are coerced to work for the benefit of the rich and powerful. We are fed and entertained, providing we work to support a consumer society devoid of any greater meaning. People this isn’t good enough, we can do better than this. Can we use this COVID experience as a catalyst for a new Renaissance? Can we start building a new society, one that drags us out of the empty void of materialism into a world where we place our common humanity at the core. Can we use this unexpected, and uninvited drama positively? I will be drinking to that over Christmas, even if I’m still doing so by myself.
“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” – Buckminster Fuller