Issue 229: 2020 04 16: Social Distancing

16 April 2020

Social Distancing


by Vic Leader

Week 1 – 24/03/2020

One week ago I took the scientific advice and adopted Social Distancing. These are my observations from that first week.

I cannot recall an earlier week in which I have spoken to more people. All by phone, Internet, etc, not face to face, but it was still contact, communication. In addition my messages on various media were far more numerous than usual. I am probably more closely in touch with those I care most about than for a long time.

It occurs to me that this is an opportunity to think. In the blink of an eye our world has radically changed. We shall get through this period and all of us will have changed if only a little. What sort of changed world would we like to create at the end of it?

I’m thinking about the human part of the world. We are a tiny part of nature, part of the animal kingdom, one of it’s many mammals. We’re not above nature. Far from it; we have witnessed true power in the shape of storms, floods, fires, locust swarms, and now this invisible attacker, this virus, all in the space of a few months. Nature is a self regulating system always reverting to a balance. I think that what we are witnessing is nature balancing itself.

And we have witnessed in recent years, and through the ages, a far worse virus. The human virus has ripped it’s way through more and more of nature’s resources, including its own kind. Think of Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Afghanistan, Rwanda, and that’s just in recent years.

So maybe this is a wake up call. Time for the human race to grow up. Stop acting like a spoilt child. Start respecting the wonders that surround us. Stop seeing ourselves as superior, above nature. Start really thinking about mankind IN nature, not “mankind AND nature”.

Would be good to hear what other people make of these strange times.

Week 2 – 31/03/2020

Two weeks of Social Distancing (SD) completed. Apart from my wife, Helen, some immediate neighbours, of whom there are few, our postie, and a few delivery drivers, from a safe distance, I have seen no one in person for those 2 weeks.

Various forms of ecomms have kept me in touch with family and friends and I probably know more about their immediate situations than in earlier times.

I am fortunate to be able to walk locally with Helen for significant times and distances as I live in a rural location. On such walks over 2 weeks we have seen very few others.

So far I’m comfortable with this situation. I wouldn’t want it to last always and I don’t know when, if at all, it will become unpleasant or intolerable. My own SD is driven by my own condition, which I am told puts me more at risk of a bad outcome if I get CV19. I am not in the high risk category but members of my social circle are.

I have plenty to keep me occupied, among which is thinking. I have always been a thinker and that is proving useful at this time. It means I can imagine doing, and then do, different things and do things differently. And clearly we are all going to need to in future. The disruption caused by CV is going to mean we do not simply go back to the old “normal” when it passes, or when the pandemic recedes.

We all know the nonsense of valuing celebrities, and top executives, (the ones who direct or manage other people’s resources), hundreds of times more than nurses or doctors. It has been recognised for many decades that the absence of cleaners or receptionists has an immediate impact on an organisation while the loss of a CEO ought not to be felt for a year or two (if the CEO is doing a good job). But never before have I seen the concrete proof of this until now.

We know that most folk are decent and this is also being reflected in the spontaneous creation of help groups, community service volunteers. But we don’t like to believe that a small number really aren’t decent. The scammers who are taking advantage of isolated, vulnerable people deserve our total rejection. When this is over we need to rethink how we treat the good and the bad. There needs in my view to be a distinction.

These are just a few of my thoughts and quite enough for week2. We have a long road ahead. We can either waste it by longing for ‘normality’ to return, or use it to work out how we can create a better future from what this teaches us. Stay well all my friends. Stay positive.

Week 3 – 07/04/2020

If the initial advice to socially distance for 12 weeks proves adequate then I’m a quarter of the way through. I’m still taking each day as it comes but little ‘landmarks’ help me psychologically to manage.

So here are some thoughts that occur to me from this experience.

It turns out that people are more important than things. It shouldn’t be a surprise and yet when times were ‘normal’ the pursuit of goods, services and entertainment took much more time than keeping in touch with loved ones and friends. With most of those distractions out of reach much more of my time is spent keeping up with those people. Video chats, phone calls, plain messaging, not to mention various other e-ways we can contact folk are all being explored and used.

And time itself! Well many of us are time rich now. Hopefully we’ll look back and think we spent this time well. Freed from the ‘usual routine’, which in my case is fairly loose in any event, I find that all sorts of jobs are there to do. Things to mend, tidying up in the garden, all those people contacts, ideas for things that wouldn’t normally be on the radar, major jobs that take time and got postponed because there wasn’t enough of it.

The web is full of stuff to do but some thoughts I’ve been having, not all yet fulfilled, include a new hobby, research, repairs to those things around the house that are broken, cook something new. Further ahead perhaps learn a new skill or language, paint /sketch / draw an image of some past event from memory.

Our PM in ICU, a senior medical officer not following her own advice; these have been two of the more dramatic events politically. I do hope the PM recovers because for all the brickbats he has and may still get I can’t think of any other character big enough to front up our situation, even though there are many very good people alongside.

Finally for this week our NHS staff, other carers and ‘essential workers’ continue to do a sterling job for which I am thankful. But let us not forget all those delivery men and women who are keeping vital and some not so vital goods moving around the country.

Stay well my friends, keep thinking, keep active as far possible.

Week 4 – 14/04/2020

A third of the way through the 12 weeks, but still living day by day, the only way.

My car has not moved for those 4 weeks, a month’s petrol money saved for some other use. Time standing still, but it’s not. That’s 4 weeks of my life that will not return, it wasn’t a bonus to add to my life. That’s why it’s important to be using it, constructively.

Manually, mentally, emotionally there are many things to do. I’m now talking to people I haven’t spoken to for ages, reconnecting, hearing how others are faring, living, in these strange times.

And there is no return to a former ‘normal’. Life is changing, as it does constantly. We are just more aware than usual. The air is fresher, I’ve learned to slow down, I’m doing new things, picking up on old, sorting out things untouched for too long.

Ironically, as we isolate ourselves, we are rediscovering community. Working together, informally, effectively to get through difficulties. Like getting our food, for example.

Could this be the beginning of a return to trust? To work together requires trust. Business ultimately requires trust. Receiving, as well as giving requires trust. And only people can trust, machines don’t, organisations don’t (only the people in them can). I hope we’ll remember that when we move out of ‘lockdown’.

Banks need to get close to customers as once they were. They recycle people’s unused wealth to those who can make it work. At least that’s the theory. Gambling with any of that breaks the prudential bond that it vital for banking to work. Satisfying the greed of dealers & senior execs is not the purpose. And money is not (of should not be) a commodity, it is a measure, pure and simple.

Giving decent returns to shareholders of banks, or any other public company is good. Remember most of those shareholders represent the means by which insurance policy profits, and pensions are paid; we are much more ‘in this together’ than many people realise.

So much more to say but there are weeks to go yet so for now I shall finish with the observation that this is a time for patience!

Stay well my friends.


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