Read on the street 25 April 2020
Another weekend, and is it different from our weekdays, I wonder? We are making sacrifices to protect physical health, and the NHS, but at what cost to our mental health? We are, after all, one being – we do not have physical and mental health in separate boxes. They are intimately connected.
And we are all one society – in many diverse parts – but whatever happens, the interactions between social, economic and environmental policy are thrown into very sharp relief by our current situation. That is being acknowledged more fully as we step along this journey. Let us hope that this dawning realisation is not quickly beclouded by a desire to go back to the golden age of January 2020!
These articles touch mainly on sacrifices, impacts and anxieties, the things which engage our emotions. It’s important to acknowledge these impacts in order to come to terms with them. As the last paragraph of the first article says – in rather a striking summation of our present state of being: “it is easier to serve the greater good if we don’t have to seek within ourselves all the discipline that this demands”.
We are having to find within ourselves that which we may not have known was there, and this comes at a certain cost. I very much hope that this cost will be rewarded by our embarking on a journey to a destination as yet unknown, but one which is fairer and more balanced than the one that we have irretrievably left behind.
Such a prospect would serve as a little encouragement, amidst it all.
Eyam revisited: lessons from a plague village
When plague arrived in the Derbyshire village of Eyam in September 1665, rather than flee - and risk spreading the infection - villagers decided to unite, cutting themselves off from the world, suffering in isolation. And suffer they did.
Eyam was a small lead-mining village with, by some accounts, just 330 residents. By the time the plague subsided in November 1666, 259 of them were dead. In choosing to isolate themselves, the villagers had made the ultimate sacrifice to preserve the lives of their countrymen.
“Our town has become Golgotha, the place of a skull,” wrote William Mompesson, its vicar.
As we enter week five of a national lockdown, what can we learn from the "plague village" about community, sacrifice and emerging from darkness?
Read in The Economist 1843.
The problem with being a hero
When ordinary people are forced to do extraordinary things as a result of something unforeseen, they are heroic.
The language of “heroism” can be used to distract attention from the fact that some of our heroes do not have any choice in the matter. Yes, they are all heroes and we are very grateful to them, but often they are humbly getting on with the job at hand. It’s their livelihood; they rely on it to pay the bills and put food on the table. But perhaps in addition to thanking and admiring those who serve in this way, we could simply ask them what they need and then find a way to give it to them. They may be heroes, but they are human too.
Read on Slate.
How single mothers in New York City are coping with quarantine
Covid-19 and its associated burdens – physical, social, economic – are undoubtably impacting all parents. But, according to Emily Bobrow, they may fall disproportionately on single mothers, many of whom were already struggling to keep their heads above water.
Many of the sectors that employ (one might say, rely on) women, such as childcare, housekeeping, hospitality, retain, travel and the service sector, are imploding. So, without income, with support systems unavailable, and with an increasingly demanding schedule of roles at home – teacher, chef, cleaner, person – single mothers are understandably struggling.
Read in The New Yorker.
Covid-19 will only increase automation anxiety
It’s little surprise that the lowest paid jobs are most heavily impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. They’re also more likely to be subsumed by automation, which Covid-19 is likely to accelerate as consumer behaviour changes, the fear of impending recession reduces consumption, and organisations pandemic-proof their operations – all at a time when there is unlikely to be significant job creation.
While automation drives productivity and long-term prosperity, there is a risk of some being left behind, reinforcing the case for some form of universal basic income.
Read in the Financial Times.
The secret of Scooby-Doo’s enduring appeal
How has a cartoon featuring hippie kids and a talking dog solving mysteries racked up more than 50 years on our screens? Born in the cultural tensions of the late 60s and early 70s, Fred, Daphne, Thelma, Shaggy and the permanently hungry Great Dane have successfully navigated the excess of the 80s and 90s, the partial reset of the early 2000s after 9/11 and the post-financial crisis world. This piece explores the many theories as to how the show has escaped being a prisoner of any one era, and this one is our favourite: “kids should meddle, dogs are sweet, life is groovy, and if something scares you, you should confront it.”
Read in The Atlantic.
The healing power of nature
I sat beside renowned political journalist and author Isabel Hardman at a dinner a few years ago when she was giving a speech. The conversation was fascinating, and she was a very accomplished and insightful speaker, the best of the night by some margin. Looking back, it was an object lesson for me, in how someone who is clever and successful, widely recognised, and outwardly completely composed could struggle nonetheless. Now she has written a book about it, The Natural Health Service, advocating the enormous benefits of living in the great outdoors.
Read more and buy her book at Waterstones.
Written by Paul Gray, Consulting Partner