It pains me every day that those in power, elected or unelected, are making decisions on our behalf which are squeezing the lifeblood out of this country. The response to covid has been a gross first-world indulgence and has revealed those in power to be disconnected from real-world issues.
However, it’s not just those in power, there’s a whole swathe of people in this country that I feel are disconnected from the bigger issues we face and who’s greatest worry is when they can go on holiday; willing to give away the hard-won freedoms of past generations in exchange for accepting new and draconian conditions for living. It seems unthinking, and somewhat disconnected to the fact that Britain is being economically ruined and socially traumatised when it didn’t need to be this way. We could simply have protected the vulnerable and still gone on holiday, unconditionally.
Perhaps worrying about summer break is a distraction technique, looking in another direction and pouring energy and attention into a week-long ouzo and kleftiko filled escape because facing the big picture, the truth of what we collectively have allowed to happen, is too much to bear. Is that what they are hoping to escape? Their part in this.
Trying to put myself in the minds of the government and lockdown supporters, I can imagine you might have a different view of the world when there’s little to worry about and can indulge yourself in an exaggerated war against a virus with a 99% plus survival rate. Salary safe, tick. Pension safe, tick, mortgage paid, tick, saving money while at home, tick. Another few months, so long as I am safe, tick.
Lockdowns and restrictions are not a luxury that the developing world can afford to indulge in. When I was at school in the 1970s, we were encouraged to have pen pals in developing countries. I had 2, one in Africa and another in India. These early connections to another view of the world inspired my later love of travel but more importantly, it offered us a window onto the living experiences of others. Our headmistress had been a teacher in a mission school in Sikkim in northern India after the war, and she saw the importance of these connections to another place and another way of life beyond the privileges of us pupils. I was at a private school for girls and was at aged 10 already seeing that for other girls my age that simply going to school was a long-held dream. The other aspect to writing to a strange girl who became less strange over time, was that as a school, we financially aided our far away friends so that they could go to school. We took schooling for granted; they saw it as a privilege. While we moodily accepted boring lessons, they lapped up school as if it were on offer for one day only.
In short, they appreciated what they had, where at the time, most of us didn’t. It was an expectation. Over the years of pen palling and a subsequent school trip to Sikkim I changed my attitude to see how lucky we were to have a society that was rich in so many things and free from everyday worries which coloured the lives of our third world friends.
This resonates with me now. In first-world Britain, we take so much for granted because generally most people are living a fortunate life. We don’t have to worry about where our water comes from or where our next meal is coming from. We don’t have to walk 20 miles to a doctor or to school. We have heat, shelter, clean water, jobs, schools, hospitals and then we allow ourselves to become paralysed by fear over a virus.
This is not a first-world luxury a family living in poverty in India or Africa can afford. When your life hangs in the balance depending on what you can salvage from a rubbish tip, the threat of a virus is just another, more distant threat to life, but there are more pressing problems. The water needs fetched, and the food needs prepared. The baby needs fed, the elderly mother attended to. Life at the raw edge of third world living cannot afford the nonessential luxury of letting a largely survivable virus knock them into a self-destructive madness.
If we don’t take our heads out of the sand soon, then we could all have bigger problems to worry about than covid. Many people in Britain are already in that situation. Recently someone asked me what I thought about Meghan and Harry’s interview, I said that I had bigger concerns, like making a living since losing my business through covid restrictions. Thinking about the royals is not something I have the time or the resources to indulge in.
We have become complacent in our first-world privilege, like I was aged 10, not realising how much of a good thing I had. We are in danger of becoming like Venezuela, not so long ago, one of the most prosperous countries in South America, now the poorest. If we don’t wake up and smell the coffee, sooner or later the money tree is going to cease bearing fruit and then paying the bills, putting food on the table, and getting an education are going to eclipse anxiety over a virus.