We can’t go back to normal: it’s time to pause to ponder how coronavirus will change the world

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Taking on Coronavirus for the last time with Laura & Sue on 

For the last 12 weeks we have been  talking about the week’s events in lock down but like the clapping for the NHS it is time to move forward as we gradually embrace our ‘new normal’

But we can’t go back to normal: it’s time to pause to ponder how coronavirus will change the world.

Times of upheaval are always times of radical change. Some of us believe the pandemic is a once-in-a-generation chance to redesign society and build a better future. Others fear it may only make existing injustices worse.

Every day brings news of developments that, as recently as February, would have felt impossible – the work of many years, not mere days.

We turn on the news because so much may have happened since the last time we tuned in.

At one point the developments were happening so quickly that it was hard to remember just how radical they all were.

In the eye of the storm & at the epicentre of the lock down,  life was transformed yet we adapted & adjusted to a world where we exercised alone, stayed home & didn’t physically see or hug loved ones.

I even attended a funeral honouring social distancing as I just stood alone on the grassy verge on the side of the road paying my respects to my Uncle’s hearse as it passed by on the way to his burial without hugging my Aunt or my cousins.

Cast your mind back: over the last 12 weeks that we have been filming our ‘Taking on Coronavirus’  we have seen schools closed,  all public gatherings cancelled. Hundreds of millions of people around the world out of work, Governments putting together some of the largest economic stimulus packages in history.

In some instances, banks not collecting monthly mortgage payments, and the homeless being allowed to stay in hotels for free. Large swathes of the world suddenly collaborating, neighbours buying the elderly their shopping & keeping in touch with them, everyone keeping at least two metres between each other, and clapping every Thursday for the NHS as they fought the pandemic on the front line.

People donating millions for Captain Tom Moore.

Musicians coming together to create amazing music using technology.

Families doing quizzes online together but apart, parents suddenly home schooling, working from home & juggling like never before. Dads spending quality time with their kids eating, talking & playing together.

Families binge watching Netflix & connecting over new routines.

But not everyone has coped easily.

The gap between the ‘have’ & the ‘have nots’ has been exacerbated. Suddenly care workers, supermarket workers, lorry drivers, postmen & those often overlooked in society for the important role they play in the jigsaw of our lives have been seen & recognised.

We have become more aware of vulnerable or hungry children from often chaotic homes without access to computers.

We have new role models. Marcus Rashford a young talented footballer made his difference in the world. The 22-year-old Manchester United and England striker has become an icon after he petitioned the government to do a u-turn and extend the scheme for free school meal vouchers for vulnerable children over the summer.

‘As a black man from a low-income family in Wythenshawe, Manchester, I could have been just another statistic’ he wrote in the letter. ‘Instead, due to the selfless actions of my mum, my family, my neighbours, and my coaches, the only stats I’m associated with are goals, appearances and caps. I would be doing myself, my family and my community an injustice if I didn’t stand here today with my voice and my platform and ask you for help.’

The mental health & wellbeing of millions of people has been tested but small acts of kindness & small uplifting Facebook pages like ‘The View from my Window’ have lifted the spirit.

People have learnt a new skill, dug deep, thrived, survived & pressed their ‘Reset Button’ & reflected on what really matters & have been propelled into addressing their racial bias due to the murder of George Floyd & the Black Lives Matter protests.

Some Governments have looked inept. Some have looked magnificent.  Female leaders have shown new ways to lead countries.

History reveals that crises and disasters have continually set the stage for change, often for the better.

The global flu epidemic of 1918 helped create the national health services in many European countries.

The double crises of the Great Depression and the Second World War set the stage for the modern welfare state.

Whenever a crisis visits a given community, the fundamental reality of that community is laid bare. Who has more and who has less. Where the power lies. What people treasure and what they fear.

As Peter C Baker wrote in The Guardian ‘Disasters and emergencies do not just throw light on the world as it is. They also rip open the fabric of normality. Through the hole that opens up, we glimpse possibilities of other worlds.’

As life imitated art I found myself reading the Ken Follett Kingsbridge trilogy ‘World Without End’ about the Black Death in Europe in the 14th century – with such uncanny similarities to our own lock down that it  gave me goose bumps – with people wearing masks & washing hands in vinegar & dying in droves.

Lockdowns have made many of us, sitting at home glued to our computers and phones, more dependent than ever on big tech companies. Many of these same companies are actively pitching themselves to government as a vital part of the solution. It is worth asking what they stand to gain & are we happy with that?

Some politicians  are using the pandemic as a pretext for tightening borders and accepting fewer asylum seekers.

In the space of a few weeks, the prime ministers of both Israel and Hungary have effectively been given the power to rule by decree, without interference from courts or legislature.

A dangerous precedent.

Disasters open up human creativity – new ways of thinking about things & new ways of doing things. They force us to adapt, adjust, reinvent & improvise. Uniting in solidarity with pockets of purpose amongst all the pain.

Societal Changes

Education may change as we move away from obsessing about data & league tables to a combination of e-learning & class learning & children’s wellbeing, working environments may change. Our sense of community & connection may  change. Policies may change. Mindsets may change. Inequalities may change.

But we have to play our part.

We have to change.

As Mahatma Gandhi said ‘Be the change that you wish to see in the world.’

The world changes because we change.

We may come to appreciate what we have in common & what unites us & for many we will return to our core values.

Climate change campaigners have been trying for years to get people out of normal mode and into emergency mode to effect change.

We all have been given the opportunity to reset many aspects of our lives.

How will your children speak of these times as we all live through history?

What memories are you creating for them & what world will they be an active part of shaping because you took a few moments to ‘pause to ponder’ & showed them the way?

Let’s not fritter away this time sitting at home on our social media – let’s commit to making a better world for us all wherever we live in the world

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