We are living through extraordinary times. Even pre-COVID they were strange, unprecedented in a variety of ways; now more so, crazy in many ways. Among the madness, contradictions and movements for and of change, the detritus of human society is somehow being raised from the shadows into the light of public awareness, apparently impossible to conceal or deny.
As well as providing a stage for social goodness and acts of community kindness, the pandemic has functioned as a mirror to a range of social horrors and abuses, failed structures, inept politicians and corrupt methodologies. Nothing new, nothing previously unknown; old issues rooted in divisive attitudes, broken systemic practices and organized methods of conditioning and control made loud. Racism and abuse, inequality, exploitation, and mistreatment of migrant workers, are some of the habitual issues being washed up.
Inequality in its many forms, has proven to be, not simply abhorrent and socially divisive, but a killer, literally. Abuse in a number of areas has increased: against women, both inside (with women trapped indoors with their abusers) and outside the home, and racial abuse including violence against people of Asian appearance, which is through the roof, particularly in the U.S. Mental health illness has also dramatically increased worldwide. Anxiety and depression are rampant in many countries; grief, anger, economic uncertainty and a lack of hope about the future are common conditions. The WHO say that, “The mental health and well-being of whole societies have been severely impacted by this crisis [COVID-19] and are a priority to be addressed urgently.”
In addition to highlighting these and a range of social problems, the interconnected interdependent nature of life and of humanity has been starkly revealed during the last year. Substantive hope rests within this recognition, and unlimited potential for good; if lasting change is to be achieved the first and essential step is the recognition that humanity is one. One with each other and one with the natural environment of which we are a part. Despite apparent differences there is only one — unity or oneness, is the essential fact of life. Many people, despite the flag-waving propaganda that screams nationalism and intolerance from the lectern, sense this truth, and long for a new world order built on compassion and freedom that fosters unity, peace and justice.
Appetite for change
If the issues highlighted by COVID are to be addressed, government methodologies and the prevailing socioeconomic order must be re-imagined. Policies, systems, values and modes of living that strengthen injustice, antagonize surface differences, stir up hatred and conflict, must be rejected totally. Replaced by pragmatic creative proposals, reached through inclusive forums, that seek to address the major issues of the time: establishing peace; safeguarding the natural world and stopping climate change; creating social justice and ending poverty.
The appetite for such a shift in approach is enormous; substantive change that addresses these fundamental concerns and safeguards the future. Individuals can powerfully contribute to the cultivation of a new dynamic, and many around the world are doing so, but for a fundamental movement to take place corporations and most importantly governments must rise to the challenge and seize the opportunity of the time; recognize the urgency of the crises, be open to new ways of doing things, listen and act.
Constraining ideals anchored in idealism, nationalism, protectionism, need to be discarded totally, and non-partisan ways of working that seek to establish the broadest possible consensus, embraced by politicians of all colors. Parliaments (not just governments) need to act from a unifying position (as some have during COVID), stay true to agreed long-term goals and principles of fairness and brotherhood, and not be swayed by corporate voices and the insistence on short-term political or economic gain; and crucially they need to listen. Listen to communities, to community leaders and to children/young people; listen to those working in the areas of concern, e.g., people engaged in civil-society and environmental campaigning.
It is in these groups that the purifying waters of change, that are now pervading the world, are being most powerfully felt and most keenly responded too. The qualities inherent in this global cleansing are perennial principles that many hold dear: sharing, cooperation, tolerance, understanding. Simple ideals known to people everywhere, repeated to children in homes and classrooms throughout the world; ideals that now must be embraced by the political and corporate class, and brought to life. Seen not simply as a list of comforting, but hollow phrases to be wheeled out at political rallies and elections to appease the masses, but as the essential building blocks of a new and just civilization; principles of goodness guiding action, informing the design of policies and new modes of living and unifying societies.