What is the proper way to react to the current situation? Ought we try and make the best of it by carrying on regardless? Should we panic or volunteer, write a novel or learn the piano? Is it ok to feel scared and must we blame others? And is work more important than family? And talking of family, is it ok to admit that one more week of being nice to each other and doing jigsaws might be the limit. If only we hadn’t got rid of the Anderson shelter at the bottom of the garden…
The truth is that there is no proper response. There are too many permutations. Each of us has our unique set of circumstances with which to deal: elderly parents, young children, lack of paid work, no money for a rainy day, too much time on our hands, too little space, plans cancelled, and difficult neighbours. At a macro level, we’re all in this together; but at the micro level the differences are profound.
One thing that perhaps unites everybody is a desire for it all to be over. To that dream scenario most people would add that they’d like it all to get back to normal. And the likelihood is that although it will, at some point, be all over it is unlikely to return to what it was. We are all going to be profoundly changed by the experience. Not necessarily for the worse, but changed nevertheless. For every dystopian there is an optimist – we can each choose a glass half full or half empty.
I’ve often wished that we could hit the pause button. After all, all forms of society and the economy have evolved into what we see today and, let’s be honest, not everything has turned out great. There are many oddities in the ways that we live our lives – how we work, travel, educate ourselves, protect ourselves, etc (*) – that could do with a fundamental rethink. So maybe this could be an opportunity to reflect on what is important to us and what our priorities are, both on a personal level and on a societal one.
But we’re not there yet. In Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, most of us have slipped down the pyramid from focusing on our esteem and self-actualisation to being concerned with our resources, safety, security and family. That is entirely right and understandable. The same is true for many businesses and organisations. Their focus is on paying wages, keeping going and not going bust. The bigger picture will have to wait for now. Survival is the order of the day.
If the second World War offers a lesson, then we’re still at the Dunkirk stage, frantically regrouping. The Blitz and the Battle of Britain are yet to come. And we’re still a long way from the Tehran conference of 1943 when Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin met to think about the shape of post-conflict Europe.
We all react in different ways because we are different people in different situations. Now remains the time to focus on the urgent and the important. The longer-term re-shaping of ourselves and our society will need to be thought through, just not now. Let’s recognise the need and desire to change but don’t rush. First things first. Let’s get through this together. (*) for a great read on the subject, try How Britain really works by Stig Abel