Pick of the Political Pops: Richard Thompson “Keep Your Distance”

Well here we (still) are. Here’s hoping that you are keeping well, dear reader, and that you are finding things to keep you occupied if you happen to be self-isolating, social distancing, furloughed or simply keeping the rest of the mad bastards from your door. Of course you might be a key worker and hence busier than you have ever been – a medical worker or emergency services personnel or possibly one of those people who nobody previously realised was a key worker.

You know, the overworked, underpaid, under-acknowledged and under-appreciated folk who it has now been realised are absolutely critical to the running of our society. No – not you the billionaire CEO of a mega-conglomerate. You people are expendable. I’m talking to you the delivery person and you the care volunteer and you the supermarket shelf-stacker. Yep – it’s all becoming very clear who the really important people are.

So if you have got time to read this then thanks for doing so. Like us you have probably been wondering how much time you are going to continue to have on your hands before we return to ‘normal’. The truth is that none of us knows. It’s one of those really difficult questions that crops up on that never-ending cycle of news programmes intermingled with less difficult things like “Can I get it from my dog?” or “Can I hold hands with my spouse?” or “Will I get arrested if I go for a walk in the park twice during the same day?” The answer from all people asked – the experts, the medics, the politicians, the academics – is the same to all questions: “Stay at home and wash your hands”. Now that is great advice and we should all follow it obviously. However there will come a point at which that won’t do as an answer. At some point people will want more certainty and it is those better qualified than ourselves who will have to come up with an answer.

The problem is that it doesn’t look as if they can. That’s not a criticism per se but an observation that the narrative, at some point sooner rather than later, will have to change in order to address people’s genuine fears and concerns. To get philosophical for a moment we are generally OK with being told what to do as a society. You drive down the road and you obey the traffic signs in order to avoid accidents for example. Happens every day. You pay your Council Tax because it is a ‘Demand’ and you’re ok with that because it gets your bins to be emptied. You don’t smoke in a pub because its health hazard for the pub’s employees and annoying to those who don’t smoke. All reasonable things. Now clearly a global pandemic is an unusual occurrence to say the very least (although the current situation tells that if nothing else we really need to get a handle on this shit in future) and the vast majority of us are on board with certain restrictions being placed upon us.

But, and it’s a fairly big BUT, what we need to know what the exit strategy is. We need to know if our jobs will still be there afterwards, we need to know when we can see our loved ones again, we need to know that we don’t need to judge our neighbours because they left their house for a pint of milk or a loaf of bread because we can’t identify if that was an essential purchase or not anymore and we need to know when the light at the end of the tunnel will shine brightly.

Right now it’s perfectly reasonable to curtail our freedoms in a way not seen in most of our lifetimes. We are on board and fully signed up to that. However someone somewhere is going to have to tell us that those freedoms are going to be restored. Moreover we are going to have to remind those people that when we get back to ‘normal’ it’s going to be a ‘new normal’ and certain things will have changed…

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