Wednesday, 18 March 2020

The Post-Resilient Society

Covid-19 is exposing some fundamental flaws in the way we live today. If schools had had to be shut 50 years ago it wouldn't have been a problem as most children came from two-parent families with one parent at home. Shops and industry hadn't yet heard of "just-in-time" delivery and so would have had more stocks available to cope with shortages and panic buying. People still understood the concept of rationing and the idea of selflessness. Most Mums knew how to make food stretch and most kids loved beans on toast and home-made chips from the sack of tatties in the bottom of the larder. We were resilient. Not now.

Now we have a guy filling his trolley with pasta and refusing to give a packet to a pensioner. We have had a run on toilet paper even although Covid-19 does not cause the runs. Parents are panicking because they can no longer rely on schools, nurseries and grandparents to do their parenting for them. Chinese people have been abused in the street and woe betide anyone who coughs in public.

The government has responded by throwing money at the problem. A lot of money, which is devaluing Sterling. It's a quick fix for an urgent problem but the real issues are much deeper. We have a housing shortage which has pushed up prices, forcing both parents in families to work just to afford a home. We have far too many workers on zero hours contracts or in pseudo-self-employment with no sick pay entitlement. Family breakdown and the idea that kids don't need both a mother and a father has meant a rise in single-parent families, which, unless there is wider family support, are less resilient and usually less well-off.

The only positive thing Calton can see so far in this epidemic is the sign that it may kill off or at least weaken the rampant individualism which began in the Thatcher years and has only grown since. For every pasta hoarder there is a selfless helper. May the latter grow in strength!

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