As the Prime Minster starts to lay out some very baby steps towards ending Lockdown, we are all quite naturally beginning to turn our thinking towards what it will all look like post-Covid. When will we go back to work/school, when can we visit our relatives, when can we go the pub for a pint, or the restaurant for a decent (English) steak? All of those are, of course, perfectly reasonable questions, which will become increasingly clear as the weeks wear on.
Yet without diminishing any of them, can I suggest a slightly different psychological approach to Covid? Surely we now have a great opportunity to ask not “what will it look like?” but: “what do we want it to look like?” In a very real sense, for the first time since 1945, we have a blank sheet of paper in front of us on which we can paint a picture of the Britain we all would truly like to see. It’s the Covid equivalent of the old JFK quote “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” What changes might there now be to our way of life - for the benefit of us all and of the generations to come after us? Here are a few ideas.
There are lessons to be learned from Lockdown about our way of life, family life, work/life balance. We can now see the great benefits of a slower pace than we have been indoctrinated to believe we need. If we can work from home we should do so, (and incidentally help the environment by cutting down on commuting.) There seems to be good evidence that many of us work better and harder and more effectively from home. I suspect that employers are finding greater productivity and of course foresee a reduction in workplace overheads as a result.
I hope that we have reminded ourselves of the importance (albeit with stresses and strains) of family life. Eating together, playing together, being self-sufficient within our own houses. I know that we have come to appreciate the outdoors, personal exercise and Mother Nature. We have been reminded in general both about what life used to be like in previous times; and we have been shown what we ought to want life to be like. Slower, friendlier, more sociable.
Second, we have been reminded about Community. It’s all got to do with the Dunkirk spirit. It’s about helping each other out; about volunteering; and being truly grateful to the people who make such great sacrifices for all of us - in particular the NHS, care workers, police, fire and ambulance, the armed services. How lucky we are in this country. We must do more to appreciate and preserve these great national services.
And third, Covid-19 has reminded us all how fragile life is. It can be snatched away from us at a moment’s notice. And that, I think, teaches us to appreciate the little things that are so good in life - family, friends, laughter and love. These are the things which truly matter- not money, not status, not power, not belongings. These things are transitory. Faith, Hope and Love, but the greatest of these is love.
So as Covid passes - and we all hope and pray that it is starting to do just that - let us ask not what others can do for us, but what we can do for them. Let us value the things which truly matter, of which we have been reminded over the last few months. Let us preserve the quality of life, the better environment, the new experiences and emotions which Lockdown has taught us. Let us not ask: “What’s the future going to look like?”, so much as “what do we truly want it to look like,” and “what can I personally do to make sure it happens like that?”
Britain can be a much better place post-Covid, and we can be better - and nicer - people all round.