Writing from Quarantine, 23rd March 2020

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This year has not gone well.

It was bad enough when Australia was on fire. Or when Trump decided World War Three was ‘collateral damage’. Or when the university decided they’d rather put us through four weeks of strike action than pay thWeir staff. But 2020 being what it is, the world is now in the grip of a pandemic, the university is shut, and I’ve had to go home for fear of going insane by myself. They’ve put all national sport on hold. The Olympics may not be happening (and really shouldn’t be).  The History Society tour has been cancelled (RIP Kiev 2020), while the Student Radio Association conference is no longer going ahead. I won’t even talk about what’s happening with my year studying abroad. I have had to leave my girlfriend down in Southampton, while my deadlines have succeeded following me to my house and camping out in my room. Apparently it’s called the Internet. Add to all this a ubiquitous sense of dread over the safety of myself and my loved ones, and the picture isn’t pretty.

Having come to the inevitable conclusion that the world is out to rob me of all joy and happiness, the question that this begs is ‘what can I do about it’? Well, I’m likely to be cooped up for the foreseeable, without my job or uni to keep me occupied.  And at a time when so much is happening, it seemed to me that writing what I think about what’s been happening recently might be worth a go. What I want to write will include a fair amount of politics, but could also branch out into other things, which could involve how I’m keeping myself busy, what I’m listening to, how I myself am feeling (if I dare go down that route). But for today, I’m just going to write about things that have been happening.

So here it is:  my Thoughts™ about Things™.

It’s easy to get caught up in what’s happening on the news. This virus is the greatest medical challenge in living memory, and worrying about your immediate present is perfectly natural. Advisable, even. If it means you wash your hands, and stay home as much as is possible, then by all means worry. But balance is key, and while we’re worrying about what’s happening, I want to talk about what will happen. What does a post-Covid-19 world look like? The answer, for me, is paradoxical. It lies in our immediate present.

How so? What’s happening now that’s relevant to any time outside of a global emergency? It’s the solutions. Hand-washing, for instance. Supporting the NHS so it can do its job properly. Making sure there’s enough for the vulnerable in our society, and that workers are adequately supported. As a list, it’s difficult for me to look at it and not think ‘surely we should all be doing all this anyway?’. I know that these are not the  only solutions to our current crisis – social distancing, for me, has been a real pain, if a very necessary one – but these are the threads I want to pull on.

Why not? The worst that happens, as far as I can see, is we build a better society. A healthier society. One in which the pay and workload won’t see doctors leaving the NHS in their thousands every year , or nurses needing food banks, with 44,000 vacancies. One in which workers won’t feel the need to turn up to work ill for fear of financial loss. In other  words, a more just society, a happier society and a society better equipped to deal with events like Covid-19.

You might accuse me of shoehorning politics into a crisis. But this crisis, effecting all of us as it does, is likely to have a particular result. Patrick Skinner, a former CIA Case Officer-turned Beat Cop, referred to this virus on Twitter as inducing  ‘a time of amazing transparency’ . I agree. The NHS has been struggling for years. Public hygiene, in particular hand washing, in this country was identified as a problem by the BBC 8 years ago, in an article that pointed out just over 1 in 10 of the population had hands so badly contaminated that they had as much bacteria as a toilet bowl. In 2018, it was reported that the number of sick days taken by workers had fallen to its lowest ever level, a phenomenon driven, according to Sir Cary Cooper, President of the British Academy of Management, by an increase in the numbers of people turning up to work ill. It’s small wonder we’re having issues with combatting this virus. The main ways of limiting the spread of disease were widely ignored before its arrival into this country.

I know I’m being preachy at the moment, and hopefully I will find something else to talk about in my next post. But this is important. If all that happens when this emergency is over is that we go back to business as usual, we will face a similar crisis in the near future. And we will be similarly ill-prepared.

If I might add one thing, before I go, it’s that it is  particularly clear to me at the moment that politics doesn’t occupy a space all to itself. It’s not removed from our lives outside of election time. The government is the thing we turn to when our best efforts, our toil, hopes, and prayers fail us. Who wields its power is and must be a major concern for all of us. Because we’re all affected, rich and poor, healthy and sick, when its protection fails us.

More articles in Writing from Quarantine
  1. Writing from Quarantine, 23rd March 2020
  2. Writing from Quarantine, 25th March 2020
  3. Writing from Quarantine, 30th March 2020: Long Live Society
  4. Writing From Quarantine
  5. Writing From Quarantine, 8th April 2020
  6. Writing from Quarantine, 15th April 2020
  7. Writing from Quarantine: Politics and Science
  8. Writing from Quarantine: The University of Home
  9. Writing from Quarantine: Staying the Course
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Political Editor for the Wessex Scene 2020-2021. Interested in politics, foreign affairs, and just about anything within those to be honest.

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