Back to normal?

I asked a question of my Facebook friends recently. It went something like this;

“When things come apart – when the kaleidoscope of our lives is shaken – there is an opportunity to see them put back together differently, and see a new way of doing things.

And we can start to think together, and work together, to decide the kind of Scotland we want to emerge from this crisis.

We still all face major challenges. Challenges in navigating the uncertainties that the virus has created, as well as rebuilding our economy and public services.

But we can go further than rebuilding, and look seriously at social and economic reform.

I am confident we can start to begin considering our futures with optimism because this crisis has taught us how we can achieve rapid results under the most demanding circumstances.”

(Nicola Sturgeon)

Could not agree more Nicola.

So- a quick straw poll of my FB friends- what reforms do you want to see? Dream big, but dream practically (and gracefully)

I had some lovely answers; stop buying things and start making them. Get factories to make things to last. End capitalism. Four day working week. Universal basic income. Move to economy base don wellbeing. Support home schooling and community resillience. Finally address issues of poverty. And so on…

The point here is this one. When all this is over – when the lockdown is done; when we can meet with family and friends; when we can trade and travel and shop – do we want things to be the same as they were before?

Think about that for a moment. Set aside the beauty contest/Eurovision wish list (‘I want world peace/end to wars/people to love each other’) and think about the world as we have known it, with all those problems that, no matter how dreadful, seemed impossible to change; climate change, rampant and increasing inequality, our addiction to oil; turbo consumerism; health inequalities; exploitation of the global south; sexual politics…

Well, for the first time in my lifetime, it feels genuinely possible that these terrible circumstances will act in some way as a kind of ‘reset’, during which real change (on individual, national and even a global scale) is possible.

So, the question remains- what changes do you want to see?

After you own great silence, perhaps you are re-evaluating your own life. Perhaps, after the enforced reduction of your income, you are realising that the wage enslaved way is not the only way to go. It is possible to earn less and be happier- either because you choose to do something else, or becuase you realise that a lot of the things you thought you needed to make you happy were not after all making you happy. It took me almost 50 years to come to that decision, but perhaps you did not need any where near as many.

Perhaps you are one of the many people who are starting to dream of simple, more self-sufficient life. If so, the planet congratulates you and hopes your dreams soon become reality.

After our nations great silence, we can no longer say that austerity is the only answer, nor that the only way to frame the question is neo-liberal economics. Neither can we say that the poor have brought their poverty on themselves through indolence, or that those living on the streets have chosen that as a lifestyle.

Already we are seeing interesting political developments. On the right, the thinktanks and scrabbling to put the genie back in the bottle, but even they are saying that a return to austerity policies is not advisable. Meanwhile, on the left, the progressive manifestos that failed in the last election have not gone away, and perhaps their time has come. This from todays Guardian

Seeking to seize the initiative on the country’s future direction once the pandemic abates, Ed Miliband, the shadow business secretary, has called for the plans to include creating a “zero-carbon army of young people” doing work such as planting trees, insulating buildings and working on green technologies.

Miliband told the Guardian that the combination of the economic damage caused by the virus and the imperative to tackle issues such as the climate emergency and pollution required ambition on the scale of Clement Attlee’s postwar Labour government.

“It’s a contemporary equivalent of what happened after 1945,” Miliband said. “It’s never too early to start thinking about the future, to think about what kind of world we want to build as we emerge from this crisis. I think we owe it to have a sort of reassessment of what really matters in our society, and how we build something better for the future.”

Under a timetable coordinated by Miliband and the shadow chancellor, Anneliese Dodds, Labour will this week start a rapid consultation with businesses, workers, unions and others on how a green recovery could happen. Proposals will then be put to the government.

“I think we should be aiming for the most ambitious climate recovery plan in the world,” Miliband said. “That should be nothing less than the government’s ambition. The old argument that you can have economic success or environmental care is just completely wrong.

FInally, what next for the world?

Instability always brings risk as much as it brings change. There are always idiots like Trump and thugs like Putin willing to exploit and play power games with people’s lives.

But there are also signs that we are learning. After all, this virus probably came to us not from a lab in Chinaaaa as Trump would have it, but via the destruction of ecosystems that brings wild animals with their unique pathogens into contact with humans. If we are to make a difference, we have to find ways of co-operating internationally, both in the pursuit of vaccinations and to support the global south in maintaining the great wilderness areas that we have left.

Perhaps above all, we are starting to see the development of ideas that have global significance. I have been pretty excited by this one;

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