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Back to normal or not?

 

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Thoughts on ...

 

Back to normal or not?                                                           21/8/20

 

Now that lockdown measures have been eased it seems to me that many people feel they are getting back to normal. Those who have been working normally throughout the crisis have probably felt more normal than those who have not but their lives have been far from normal in other ways. It is not normal to keep two metres away from other people, to wear a mask or to be told you can’t go to a pub or a football match.

 

At some point we all desperately hope that in our personal lives we can get back to where we were before we were struck by the pandemic. I have observed elsewhere that I consider it to be the most unique event in human history through the combination of its tragic death toll, its global reach, its disruption to daily life and its effect on economic activity. The only way to combat the virus has been for all of us to live very differently from normal. Although our aim should be to try to return to our pre-corona lives as soon as we are able there is no reason why we should not take the opportunity to reflect on our personal lives and consider whether there are any aspects of them we could change for the better.

 

This is something we should certainly do when talk of returning to normal refers to society as a whole rather than our daily lives. Should our society here in the UK, as well as in the rest of the world, really be returning to normal? I don’t think so.

 

Our global and national society has contributed an enormous amount of well-being to an enormous number of people especially over the past few decades. Our health, our standard of living, our homes, our education, our leisure activities, our tolerance of different lifestyles and beliefs, our material possessions, our communications, our means of travel and our domestic and commercial use of technology, have all seen incredible advances for which many of us can be grateful. Most of us live in at least moderately democratic societies based upon the rule of law which exists to prevent harm to people and permit a generous amount of individual liberty.

 

But despite these huge advances in establishing more well-being in many aspects of our lives we are a long way short of perfection. Our normal society is not something we should be satisfied with. It is built upon deeply embedded, institutionalised inequality. Inequalities pervade the structures of society and great swathes of our national and global populations; inequalities in terms of income, standards of living, health provision and access to education, and inequalities in terms of well-being.

 

An immeasurable amount of good is being done in society. In the past six months we have seen the best of humanity from medical and care workers, from key workers of all kinds and from community volunteer groups. I believe that, generally speaking, in the past hundred years or so we have become a kinder and more compassionate society. But sadly the behaviour and attitudes of too many people means we are still doing far more harm to each other than we should be. There is too much violence, crime, mental cruelty, intolerance, exploitation and hurt of every sort.

 

If we want a better society we need a radical change of mindset about what we should consider to be normal. We need to look at every aspect of society and examine it critically to see if fulfils the only purpose that matters: its contribution to the well-being of each individual human being. As I have written previously we did not need the unimaginable tragedy of the pandemic to make us do this. We could and should have been changing our beliefs, attitudes, and the way we organise ourselves as a caring and harmonious society, long ago.

 

We must seriously reflect on the sort of society we want and ensure we do not return to normal. We must have a radical rethink about the way our economy functions, the way our democracy works and the way we educate ourselves and our young people for the purpose of forging a better society.

Those who share the view that some new thinking is urgently required by all of us, not just our politicians and decision makers, may be interested to see some thoughts I have previously set out on the direction we should consider going in many areas of society:

https://www.quercuspublications.co.uk/quercus_manifesto.htm

 

Note

 

Two policies that could be implemented immediately to support those on low incomes or the unemployed would be to raise the minimum wage, to 12.50 or possibly 15.00, and for the state to become the employer of last resort.

 

To begin the process of reforming our immature system of tribal politics and replacing it with something more representative and capable of producing rational rather than partisan decisions, the unseemly ritual of Prime Minister’s Questions should be abolished as soon as parliament reconvenes.