Isolation or cooperation

Isolation or cooperation

The irony of the personal virus situation mimicking the international virus situation seems to be lost on many people. Individually we are exhorted to keep our distance while cooperating enough to bring the economy back to a sustainable level. Views are so divided on this that we may well see physical violence trying to resolve it. Now glance at the world scene. Patriotism and protectionism are rife, with the two big bullies leading chants of American Elections First and China Sea Forever. Now look at informed economic commentators. They say only global cooperation will restore the world economy to anything remotely like what it was last Christmas.

Divide and live or cooperate and die? It’s too simple to answer like that. The political structure of the world is still that you vote for the person or party that you want to run the country you live in. The global organisations we place some of our faith in – the United Nations, the World Health Organisation, as two examples – have been made impotent almost wholly by our lack of support and, to be fair, occasionally by their own inadequacies.

Read Martin Wolf in the Financial Times. His somewhat pessimistic view that we are all retreating into our own little shells is enough to frighten you to death. Listen to Tony Blair – oh, yes, he is worth listening to in spite of Iraq – and you see the sense of working together. World cooperation in one form or another is the only acceptable, and survivable, way to go. But the Path from Patriotism to Partnership is Perilous. And unlikely to be trodden in the foreseeable future. What should the ordinary person do to make a responsible contribution to recovery from the virus?

First, behave intelligently as far as their family is concerned. The family unit has taken a fair old bashing in my lifetime and not entirely without my help, either. But it remains a strong – potentially extremely strong – unit to be nurtured for the survival of society. Every family gets its bumps and bangs and it will survive those to precisely the extent that it is seen as an entity. You don’t have to be the Pope to think highly of the family’s importance.

Apart from forgiveness and open arms, what else can the individual, and therefore the family, do to advance the recovery from a world pandemic? I have five suggestions that may help.

[1] Become better informed. We are overwhelmed with so-called news, mostly trivia about people climbing the celeb ladder. Riveting as their peccadilloes may be, the real news today is about how the biggest economies are relating to, and cooperating with, each other. That means China and the United States and the answers are ‘badly’ and ‘not at all’ respectively. Observe their military buildups and you get a picture of serious menace or potential war. Responsible citizens have a view about this – one that must be relayed to their politicians.

[2] Stop the mad clatter of life for two hours a week. Use the time to talk to your spouse and your children and any other family members who spend time with you. Talk about life, the world, why we are here, how we could be happier, what everyone would like to do to help others. Easing the family into a little bit of philosophy may not seem like a challenge to the latest violent game but it can become so if the leader of the family will take responsibility for making it work. Nothing heavy, just a light canter across purpose and the fascinating planet we live on.

[3] Get each member of the family to invent a story of the rest of their lives. Involve the young as well as the old. Allow each of them to tell their story in a quiet time. Have a prize for everyone. This is a good way of introducing the two hours a week in [2] above

.[4] Think time. You do not have to be religious (but you can be, too) to stop for a few minutes and think about the people who we should all be helping. It may not be prayer but a kind thought is partly what a prayer is, anyway. It’s ‘think about other people’ time and it, too, can be part of [2] above. Think time isn’t only about this. It can be used to think about the future, too.

[5] Be grateful for what you have. It may not be much and it certainly won’t be perfect. If it is enough, it is worth a lot of gratitude. If more than enough, it allows you the greatest treat of all, which is to give some away. And the best way of expressing your gratitude? To be kind to other people. In fact, there is no other way.

I started with a question “Isolate or cooperate?” If you’ve read this far you will know that the answer is so obvious that we don’t need to sum it up.

Except perhaps to say “Call someone you know today who isn’t expecting a call from you”.

That will make their day.