Thinking time and new ways of thinking
A shorter version of this post was commissioned by Ideas Alliance and first published as part of the Ideas Alliance Covid Considerations series.. This is Rob’s uncut version!
Is it not strange how things change over time. Only two months ago, I was penning with delight about the delight of lockdown. How it was allowing me time to reflect. Now I am complaining about how I have no time to myself, spending every daylight hour and some hours of the dark bouncing from meeting to meeting. Not having time to genuflect never mind reflect. Reflection is important.Writing, thinking, helping yourself and others: all need time to reflect.
So, this piece is dedicated to discussing my journey from there to here and what it means for me, and maybe for others learning lessons from the path I have travelled.
Is this a paradox, an oxymoron from a moron, or words of wisdom from a wise sage. A bittersweet pill to swallow, I will leave you to judge that for yourself after reading this — hopefully, to its conclusion.
Before we venture any further, I feel I must warn you of my sense of humour sharper than the sharpest rapier cutting me as deeply as anyone else. If you are comfortable with that, then let us continue.
Lockdown has created many freedoms and connections which would never have been open to us in the pre-pandemic world; of course you have to be in the correct place at the correct time to take advantage. Luckily or unluckily, we will only be able to judge that given time, seeing how we were in that place at that time. People have invited me into their homes via a laptop screen to share conversations, ideas, and a heavy portion of fun. My poetry has opened many virtual doors for me, allowing me platforms that would be and have been inaccessible to me in the physical world, allowing me to travel across the globe in seconds. My now-global audience has increased ten-fold as a campaigner, businessman, activist, and performer.
The lockdown regime has meant that as a disabled person I no longer need to worry about travelling to meetings and events, and all the stresses that involves such as travel, parking, will the venue be accessible, will it have toilets I can get into. On the flip side, no travel means you are available to attend back-to-back meetings, leaving no time for reflection. If you are not careful, you can overstretch yourself both physically and mentally and there goes any pretence of wellbeing. I am sure many of you can relate to this. In other words, and much more briefly, being busy can be positive; it can also be negative. The trick is recognising this and moving the correct way.
One of the pitfalls of working from home during lockdown is that there is no separation between home and work; once I am released, I look forward to getting my home back.
I am pragmatic, even fatalistic, never let anything stop me from achieving my ambitions or goals. Some call me pig-headed, and maybe so if it is needed. In some ways, Covid-19 does not scare me. Being a 50-odd disabled man, I have encountered, fought many obstacles, barriers, things that could kill me. That is not to say I am blasé about the pandemic — that would be suicidal, and I am not that; I also have responsibility for the safety of others. Life has taught me to think and act like this, or might it be that I have shaped my view of the world coloured by my experiences and biases, both conscious and unconscious.
I am not alone in discovering new freedom and connections whilst being locked in lockdown, in our homes which is where the paradox I spoke of becomes clearer. I, like many, am concerned that these newfound freedoms and connections will be lost or at least reduced once lockdown is released. Of course, not everyone has access to these freedoms; the lack of funds and equipment prohibits many more from accessing and participating in the virtual world. The pandemic has highlighted the widening of the gap between those with and without even the most basic resources. What some take for granted, other can only dream of which only goes to show that things must change drastically once we are released and we venture into the new world.
And things are different. You only need to look at the Black Lives Matter movement which has sprung up over the murder of George Floyd by raging racist police in Minneapolis. People in their thousands across the USA, across Europe, including cities across the UK are risking their lives to take to the streets, protesting, taking the knee to say enough is enough. But do not be deceived, it is not just the events in the States that people are reacting to it is the systematic racism that exists everywhere. The tearing down of statues of racist anti-heroes demonstrates this.
Let us not forget that Covid-19 has killed four times as many black lives and three times as many Asian lives as their white counterparts. Is it any wonder they take to the street saying “If covid doesn’t get me, racist coppers will. So, we will take our chances.”
It is not only that movement which demonstrates the changing of the tides. People have realised that the old ways are not fit for purpose today and ordinary citizens have both the ability and confidence to do things which they gave over to others to do and decide before. They can achieve things that benefit themselves and others. Do things differently in ways that seem less cluttered and complicated — ensuring that many more can comprehend and contribute.
New grassroot communities are sprouting up every day that lockdown continues; communities are being redefined as global connections and communication networks spread. Communities are expanding as the world appears to be shrinking. Conversely, old-established organisations are having to rethink their practices and policies before the world realises that they have become redundant and are no longer needed.
Remember lockdown is not a capitalist structure. It allows new revolutionary ways of thinking and doing. Let us not lose that in our new reality.
Before I conclude, let me introduce you to SPMs (Small Progressive Movements) — some people cannot make small steps but can do SPMs that can make big differences to people’s lives.
In conclusion let us remember solitude is good, loneliness is bad. The trick is to learn the lessons of lockdown solitude. So, we can create better communities, better connections and be more aware of the needs of ourselves and others. If we can do this, then lockdown can have a positive conclusion.
The poet in me demands I finish thus:
I urge you to look at lockdown like this
We went in like timid caterpillars
After months of being locked up
We emerge like beautiful butterflies
Full of splendid diversity and difference
But with a singular purpose for our new reality
To build a brighter better world for us all
Date 25th June 2020
Thanks to @MWSeymour for making the above photo available freely on @unsplash https://unsplash.com/photos/69zVsGRejY4Posted on July 31, 2020 #covid19 #Rob #lockdown