Everyone’s talking about the silence.
It’s as if a switch has been turned off. The sudden cessation of noise in our cities, empty streets, ghostly tourist attractions and the lack of traffic are all reminiscent of a horror movie. It’s the presence of absence and the absence of presence.
The constant throbbing, background of daily life has been quietened. It’s a novel experience that is unfamiliar and is disturbing and soothing. It shakes us up and then consoles us. It frightens us as it becomes familiar. It seduces us and then knocks us off balance. We’re enchanted by the audible bird song and muse about life remaining like this. We contemplate the present and, as we nostalgically yearn for the past, we realise this is becoming the new reality.
As we pass the days in this strange limbo, we begin to fill the space and the silence with a patchwork of activities; music and telephone conversations interspersed with eating, sleeping or bingeing on videos. We Zoom into relationships and socially engineer our days. I’ve become a real enthusiast for Zoom get togethers, whether it’s birthday celebrations, catching up with friends in America, Indian cooking on-line or helping clients to adapt to a new kind of working. I tell myself I am becoming more techno savvy by the day and flatter myself that it’s good to be up to speed.
And there lies a hole for us to fall into.
The silence is like an incredibly, noisy signal that heralds the possibility of change. Covid19 has achieved overnight what World Leaders said couldn’t be accomplished before at least 2040. The virus has stopped the world in its tracks. At the same time, we humans have to realise we have been given an opportunity. In the aftermath of this pandemic, we have the chance to effect radical change in the way we live, order our world’s resources, respect each other and value the planet.
The whole world is in this crisis. There is no escape for anyone to a ‘safe place’ and we all face the current reality of life with Covid19. People in every community are affected in different ways; rich, poor, rural or urban, all communities are having their skin rolled back and, in many cases, the raw flesh of what lies beneath is not a pleasant sight. Some of it we knew, some is shocking, some is unpleasant and unjust. What we now realise is that this has to change. Just as patients with Covid19 are being given intensive care, so the analogy with the world needing intensive care is pertinent
This time of silence and lock down allows us to reflect on the world we would like to inhabit and to begin to create and share it. Things have already changed; the old world is gone, and this is our moment to demand that things change for the better. There has to be a fairer and better distribution of the earth’s resources and this will mean big discussions around what our personal expectations are and how much we ourselves are willing to change or will be forced to change. Everything from travel for business meetings to foreign holidays and being prepared to look at our own consumer habits and conspicuous spending.
As we sit quietly in our isolated little bubbles, still reeling from the shock of what is happening and coming to terms with changes in our life, it is heart-warming to hear the stories of people caring for and supporting people who really need help. Whether that’s families who have no food and are hungry (Yes, hungry in the UK in 2020! More about this and our local fresh food banks later) or solid support and practical help for individuals in deep depression. I am awestruck by what I have seen and heard from friends and family across the UK. In the last few weeks we’ve all seen or heard about the kindness of strangers; sharing and generosity, communities providing food banks, shopping for the housebound, identifying and helping families who have ‘slipped under the radar’ and desperately need assistance (and my goodness that huge problem is surfacing). I didn’t doubt these values still existed and I’ve been re-assured by the level of spontaneity of people stepping forward and caring for each other. For too long, success has been driven by self-interest, greed and acquisitions. Salaries, money, profits and bonuses have been seen as goals to measure this success. To date COVID19 is certainly playing a part in the change we are facing.
There will be accountability in the future as we grieve for the loved ones who died so tragically and, in some cases, unnecessarily. We owe it to them and their carers to place hallmarks of honesty, truthfulness and a grown-up approach to life around our discussions about the future.
As we listen to the captivating sound of silence, let’s stop. Let’s use the time productively to reflect and talk. Let’s identify the values and ethical behaviours that are vital for the new world. Then let’s send our clear demands viral.