The current virus crisis has provided many valuable lessons to us all as a society. Very early on the UK a list of key workers was drawn up by the government – these would be the individuals who would be in the front line, keeping us safe and ensuring that we could sustain some sort of normality in terms of vital supplies of food and utilities. There was much speculation as to who would be included on this list but once it was made available it was obvious to all that our key workers were amongst the lowest paid members of our communities, often working long hours and with little if any job security.
Lesson 1: Western capitalism does not reflect worth through pay.
For those of us fortunate enough to be able to work from home during this period I think many have reflected upon how we can use what we have, despite that not being the sort of wealth mentioned above, to show our gratitude to those who we recognise as making the greatest contribution to our society. This may be through charitable giving and/or perhaps through making wise choices about the companies we support with our income. Personally I have crossed off some companies – I won’t be frequenting a Weatherspoons or shopping at Amazon any time soon. Many of us have discovered our local shops and the extra time has made it possible to live more mindfully.
Lesson 2: There are other ways to live which place greater value on a human scale.
This business advice site warns that businesses will be damaged by lockdown during covid but also is clear that businesses need to provide honest and clear communications if they are to rebuild. What a shame we don’t have the same advice for our government ministers! There has rarely been a time in our recent economic history when the importance of trust has been so clearly underlined. Businesses can build trust through their actions and trust is eroded when we fail to help those we wish to sell to. Many canny businesses realised this early on and went to great lengths to support their local communities. That should be celebrated and it reconnects the profit motive with the idea of service. An important balance which needs to be understood.
Many have also had to get through lockdown with very little human contact. Loneliness, already a huge problem for many people in our communities, has grown. Inequalities have also widened. More have been driven into poverty and are unable to feed their children. It looks as though there will be many more jobs lost too. I doubt I am alone in thinking that problems of this scale will not be addressed through market forces alone.
Lesson 3: Human survival requires humane intervention.
We must learn all these lessons and play our part in a manifesto for change. I welcome the reaction from some of the world’s super rich, but we must not assume that it absolves the rest of us of responsibility.