So there IS such a thing as society...change starts there.

The Boy Mole Fox and the Horse
Charlie Mackesy

At heart I’m an optimist . I can usually see an upside. In recent years as well I’ve been practicing mindfulness and I do feel gratitude for all I have. And by that I don’t mean stuff, I mean people, I mean love and kindness, I mean all the things money can’t buy. But it’s also having enough to get by, to buy food and wine, to pay bills, to pay for Netflix,WiFi. I’m a struggling optimist this last couple of weeks. I can’t see the upside of this virus and worry about how it will affect us long term. I value not having to rush around and to have time to read and be mindful but in some ways it feels like the eye of the storm. We’re protected from the pain and suffering of others and maybe I’m struggling with survivor guilt in a way?

I’m very aware daily of my privilege. I’m comfortable, I have a house, a garden, great support from my husband and I’m able to do things to keep me engaged and feel useful. But I’m fearful for those whose own lives have been devastated by this virus, for those whose hopes have been washed away, and those who were already struggling with a vicious benefits system. This virus is like no other we have experienced and it’s not only taking lives, it’s changing lives. I do believe some of the changes will be for the better but we have to recognise it’s going to be different. And unless we do something there is a real risk those who are struggling will be left to carry the pain and injustice.

 I suspect what makes me most fearful is that I just can’t trust the Westminster government and it’s behaviour around this our greatest health challenge in one hundred years. I don’t know what is true or what is spin. It’s scary. Our own government in Scotland by contrast is working hard to be transparent, open and honest about what is happening and also about the future. But there remains the interdependence with all of the UK so the complete path is not all ours to navigate. 

Nicola Sturgeon spoke of the new normal and like many I would like that to be kinder with more connected communities. I think we need universal basic services as well as income to take away the social, health and economic impacts of poverty on people and communities. This experience is a confirmation that there is such a thing as society and healthier and happier nations have to start from there.

 So Thatcher was very wrong about there is no such thing as society and neoliberalism has also been shown to fail spectacularly, especially here in the UK with our shocking inequality.  Our new normal should not and cannot be a tweak of the old one but an opportunity to harness the spirit of kindness and connection and build a new country to be proud of. All change starts from communities so like everything, it starts with ourselves. And this time we really need to step up. 


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