Saturday, 1 August 2020

No vaccine for compassion.

Up Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh 

Today, in Scotland, shielding ends. If you are reading this in the future I don’t know if you can really appreciate the importance of this for some people. As I wasn’t properly shielding ( no letter for me) but being very careful, I’ve been a bit more mobile in the last couple of weeks. But I remain very cautious. It’s a bit like a slow motion Hokey Cokey without the fun. I’m back as quick as I’m out and I relax only once I get through the door. It will be so hard for people until they gain confidence.
I’ve lost some mobility, perhaps that would have happened anyway, but it’s making stairs harder. And so another bit of independence is eroded. COVID-19 is shaping the advice against taking holidays abroad. For us it would feel a mountain to climb to holiday abroad on our own anyway. We’re planning a trip to the north of England  to see my much loved sister-in-law and I’m fearful as the numbers slowly rise around there.  I want to parachute in and out again but I’m not sure that’s recommended with my spinal problem either! Let’s face if you’d never get me out the plane....

Life was complex before COVID-19 and now it’s shifted on another axis and we don’t know how it will end. Edinburgh has tourists again and even tour buses but the streets are changing as shops and restaurants close there doors forever. The untold stories of precious jobs lost and businesses  sadly turning into empty shells. Of course we will adjust in time but those of us who live through this transition will be most affected. Life as it was before is like a snowflake melting on our hands. We think of it’s earlier unappreciated glory as it disappears before our eyes.

As I look back on a time when I flew up and down to London so often, it was as familiar as the 27 bus, I know my life would have been so different with zoom to allow me to connect meaningfully, instead of life being lived through the fabricated lens of an airport. I would have bought less MAC eyeshadow and invested more in relationships at home. For people still worked that way, this lockdown will have been life changing. I would have been able to go to yoga and read more books. I would have had less long and often lonely evenings in airports or on trains just wishing that I was home.

But many charities like the ones I worked for, have lost significant income and some are even talking of redundancies so those benefits for people like me are coming at a cost to so many. It’s sad that changes that are enabling so many to have more balanced lives have only been realised as a result of a massive public health disaster. We see the digital inequality in our society widen and deepen the existing inequalities . Such divisions are unsustainable and cause another kind of public health disaster. If we look the other way when so much poverty is visible, I’m afraid to imagine what might be the impact.

Reflecting, as I’m writing, is helping me understand that my fear just now is not just for the virus  but for a further polarised society. So with earthquake style cracks opening under our feet, yes put your mask on and wash your hands but please let’s contribute to closing those cracks and open our hearts ( and willingness to pay tax or similar). Maybe the answer is to invest in universal basic income and universal services and make social justice a reality. This will take time but if we don’t start now, the virus will eat at the very heart of who we are as a nation or community. There’s no vaccine for that. 

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