• We Trusted Each Other

    As 2020 draws to a close, we can reflect that it will live long in history as the year when the health of the world, and of our nation, came under serious threat and we were all put to the test.

    We can also reflect that we, as a nation, overcame the threat pretty well, while many other parts of the world didn’t do so well.

    We should also recognise that the threat to our health was twofold; it was a threat to both our physical health as individuals – in the form of the death and illness delivered by the coronavirus; and also to our societal health – the challenge the pandemic represented to our capacity as a society to deal with it.

    The facts about our relative success in bringing the virus outbreak under control are well established. We were arguably more successful than any other comparable country in limiting the numbers of both individual cases and deaths, and in maintaining the capacity of our health services to operate effectively in treating the cases we did have.

    We can afford to celebrate that medical success – but it is our response as a society, and our willingness and ability to stick together and do what was necessary, that really stand out.

    As many overseas commentators have observed, both successes owed much to strong, clear and empathetic leadership, but we – as a people – can also claim some of the credit. In the end, both our leaders and we, the led, were united by a quality we all held in common – we trusted each other.

    Our leaders asked us to trust them, and we did, because they showed themselves to be worthy of our trust. They told it like it was, drawing on all the expert advice they could muster, and they explained exactly what we would have to do and why, and showed that they understood the impact of what they were asking of us – and we believed them and accepted that we would need to do it.

    They, in turn, trusted us to do it, and we did. And we all trusted each other to do it too. We all knew that the sacrifices we were making – in terms of restrictions on our freedom of movement, the losses of income and the blow to economic and career prospects, and the barriers to contact with our loved ones – were all worth it and that others were doing likewise; we were confident that there would be no – or very few – backsliders.

    Like other countries, we had our instances of those hoping to make political capital from the price we had to pay for defeating the virus. There were those – aping those of similarly extreme views from overseas – who declared that the virus was a hoax, that it was a conspiracy designed to deprive us all of our freedom, urging us to refuse to comply with the restrictions required of us.

    Fortunately, we kept clear heads and clear eyes, and sent the conspiracy theorists packing. We knew enough about the way our society operates and the values it represents to allow us to maintain our trust in each other.

    A crisis of the kind we have been through puts us to the test as to how far we are ready to act on the belief that we are at our best when we act together – that we are all better off when we act in the common interest.

    Sadly (for them, certainly), the American people seem to have failed that test. Many of the tribulations they have suffered are the consequence, not only of poor (not to say, worse than useless) leadership, but also of a societal disintegration.

    They seem to have been more concerned with differences between them than with working together. They have paid a heavy price for being unable to trust each other.

    We, on the other hand, I am glad to say, were able to demonstrate that we are in good health – not just in the medical sense, but also as a society. We are in good health and good heart, affirming all our long-held values, and all the stronger for it – ready to face whatever further challenges may be thrown at us.

    Bryan Gould
    5 December 2020

1 Comment

  1. Greywarbler says: December 29, 2020 at 11:48 pmReply

    Merry Christmas Bryan Gould. It is good to have the opportunity of knowing your opinions based on experience and conviction. May these continue throughout 2021.