It is a funny, strange world we live in right now. I was thinking how rare it is that, right now, wherever we are in the world we are all basically facing the same situation. All of us, at the same time, collectively seeing our worlds turned upside down by this invisible virus that no one has immunity to, that can kill but leaves most essentially unscathed. It threatens but we don’t know if and when we will get it and what the outcome will be. So we park that thought and carry on making the best of things, hopefully looking out for each other and finding fun and laughter somehow amongst the chaos, sadness and uncertainty. A unique shared experience.
Of course, in reality the observable facts of the virus may be the same but our experiences are not shared . My experience of the virus as someone semi-retired, a home owner with grown up kids living in the country is not going to be the same as a migrant worker living in poverty in India. Whilst I can potter around finishing some gardening, popping to the shops, doing my bit to help and enjoying the chance to catch up with friends online and write my blog, others are wondering where their next meal is coming from, what to do with stressed out, bored kids or actually living with the virus unsure if they are going to survive or spend days connected to a ventilator not knowing if they are going to live or die. So maybe we need to talk about shared external circumstances rather than a shared experience?
Then I look at a society similar to us in the UK. America, the great US of A. Wealthy, privileged USA. A stable democracy like ours enjoying an incredibly high standard of living. Two of the lucky ones in global terms and yet what a difference at the moment. And the key difference is in how those countries are being led. Over here in the UK, yes we have a right wing, flawed leader in Boris who inexplicably pushed to take us out of the best trading block on the planet, and yet he still knows how to act and behave when it really matters. He and the government haven’t got everything right but most people here acknowledge that that are fairly intelligent people sincerely doing their best for the country. When Boris’s stand in (he himself has the virus) spoke two days ago, I thought, I don’t like this man (Dominic Raab ) or his politics but I could admire the way he was dealing with things and how he addressed the nation. He offered his condolences to those families that had lost loved ones. He praised the medical and other staff making so many sacrifices. He spoke with compassion and he gave accurate information. This is what you want from the leaders in times of crisis.
Then I watched clips of Donald Trump. My heart sank. Attacking reporters who rightfully questioned his lackadaisical stance at the beginning of the crisis in the US, open mouthed as he suggested that masks and other equipment were being stolen and sold off by medical staff, appalled at the brazen way he offered his corporate buddies a chance to sell themselves and their companies as thousands die in his country because of his refusal to take the crisis seriously earlier on when he had the opportunity to take real action. I could go on. His admission that he only speaks to governors he likes, acting like some narcissistic teenager and chillingly saying to a press conference that he wished 80% of them were not there, in other words his critics. The Americans I have met are warm, open, loud, vibrant and creative. The bloggers from America that I read are all incredibly compassionate and I can only imagine how they feel when their president gives a press conference as he did last week where spoke about the number of deaths and offered no words of condolence or compassion to those that died or their families. A disgrace to his own country.
My heart goes out to the millions of Americans who have to live with this man in charge of so many aspects of their lives. I feel that despite having a government here that I didn’t vote for, those in charge do have a sense of compassion, public service and intelligence that gives me some confidence that they know what they are doing.
So shared circumstances, shared common threat, shared experiences of living through completely changed social arrangements but very different experiences framed by the leaders of our different countries. I’ve focused on the UK and the USA here but I’m aware that this crisis Is highlighting the strengths and weaknesses of leadership across the globe. A hope would be that populations hold their leaders to account when all this is over and that the ignorant and the inept get the comeuppance they deserve. In the meantime it’s local communities that are being energised and taking control, helping each other and finding ways to connect and find solutions to the common problems we face. Let’s hope that’s a common experience that survives this crisis.
Stay connected, stay safe. Jim X