How Soon is Now?
Updated: Apr 7
This title shares the name of a ditty from he Smiths – far from my favourite; long and too akin to a dirge even for me – though it really does represent what I’d call a striking concern of the time.
We’re all in it together. The great leveler of the new Corona Virus has forced us to institutionalize ourselves in fighting for a better future, and I implore for some optimism to result from this.
Let’s see, we’re in the midst of a surreal episode. The outbreak Corona Virus feels to be as much of a curveball as anything possible that could have treated the world to a new decade. Indeed, we have not been faced with comparable turmoil in the post-war world.
In the best spirits possible, nobody’s even got so much as a clapped-out clue – ‘if’ maybe a more accurate reading of the current global state of affairs – how this pandemic will end. Ever forcing myself to be ‘glass half-full’, I’m positive that humanity will cope and adapt to the challenge of a life threatening disease being within our midst.
Of course the last time that we may have witnessed such a spectacle was during the infamous outbreak of Spanish Influenza throughout 1918-19. In exceeding the fatalities of the Great War—50 million lives taken during these troubled times—the impacts cannot be taken as anything but dumbfounding. Anachronistic as any comparisons between our current battles against Corona Virus may be, we have hope that our information age breeds more positivity than a paranoid schizophrenic reaction to this crisis.
It’s questionable as to whether our current age of infobesity offers any service to overall mental health. With the current recorded death toll increasing by the day, it may still be a far cry off of last century’s Spanish Influenza, yet we could still be a long way off in terms of the prevention… Instinctively, I am cast back to thinking how the Corona catastrophe would have been handled in the year that I entered the world. As with the Plague of London in 1665 – hopefully we won’t be landed with a global equivalent of 1666’s Great Fire of London to eradicate all remnants of it next year – I think that ‘hoping that you were lucky’ would have been the principle way of fending against any widespread disease in 1988.
Whereas it would just not have been so much as a figment of sci-fi thirty odd years ago, technology makes working from home possible for such a large proportion of our country’s business sector. There is something almost nostalgic in the concept of an office in its traditional sense, but being such social creatures, I really hope that the idea of working socially shan’t ever have to become just a forgotten notion.
Still, I hope that the Corona outbreak will lead us to rethink our priorities and re-jig our values. What actually equates real value is something that should shine out of this episode when the chips are so down for so many.
Automatically, elements of Robert Tressell’s The Ragged Trousered Philanthropist spring to mind, in terms of how we equate the value of various jobs. The fact is, we’re a country where predominantly tertiary services, i.e. finance, sales, marketing etc., dominate the labour market, and for all that it’s technically worth, I feel that it spreads gross injustices over the reward of performing certain roles. Perhaps we’ll finally recognise the makings of our capitalist system as so out of date; not to mention out of touch. Quantifying the intangible offers limited reality.
Tressell’s novel almost vindicates my argument that the more monetary reward and widespread prestige that a form of employment has, the less that anybody would notice if it didn’t even exist! Refuse collectors, retail workers, road sweepers represent just a tip of the iceberg in terms of the jobs that are clearly crucial for society to operate, yet have certainly in recent years been afforded the “pay peanuts and get monkeys” mentality.
We seem to have lost the ability to accurately ascribe value to a job. Security seems to have been traded off for ‘aspiration’ in recent years; for my generation, we’re now seeing an absence of both. Competition, aggression and a liberal attitude as to what actually constitutes real truth – think LinkedIn – are all that remain, and I desperately yearn for this tainted way of life to be challenged.
With the current situation, I think that we have to allow ourselves has to be properly forgiven for our zest for life sustaining itself by being propped up by our joys of our past and preoccupying ourselves with the future being rosy.
Something that is crystallising itself as ever more significant is how many qualities of life could be so easily overlooked. Perspective is the buzz word for what I really feel that this perilous outbreak has nurtured. There’s quite some distinct difference between feeling undersold for not being exactly where you want to be at any moment of time, in contrast to feeling that you are stuck static in not progressing to anywhere at all. You don’t know what you got until it’s gone.
A demise of the tawdry right-wing that has shamelessly and ineptly thrived in recent years in one positive is one outcome that my optimism allows me to believe could result from this cruel episode.
The lack of funding that our imperative welfare system as an offshoot from the dominance of a neoliberal agenda across the so called special relationship from the 1980s, has led to a decreasing overall regard for social security in providing any sort of tangible safety-net. An attitude of fiercer competition and disparities in income inevitably left an increasing proportion of the population experiencing extreme disadvantage. The wealth gap between contemporaries has grown ever more obscene.
Never has there been a greater price for an absence the post-war consensus in celebrating the greater collectiveness of a powerful and well-resourced society. Never has the triumph of a socialist outlook proven as more advanced and civilised than during a time where so much fierce reality seeps through. We can no longer afford to turn a (convenient for some) blind eye to our crumbling welfare system.
I am furious that it has apparently taken something such as this to realise that we are not islands and that we just can’t afford to simply look after number one. The stock-market sharply recovering amid such turbulence and grief surely only prove how corrupt and volatile markets are, along with the fact that looking after the rich only ever benefits the rich. Indulging this minority simply has to end if humanity is to prosper at its best.
Politically I’d almost describe myself as something of the oxymoron as a pragmatic socialist and a pretentious prat and I don’t care who knows. Nostalgia (they say that us males are far guiltier of it) is something that I ever turn to in times of turbulence. In this, I hark back to Clement Attlee and the radical swooping to the left of UK politics after his landslide election victory of 1945 and hope that a post-corona world can witness something similar.
It almost depresses me that it’s had to come to something like this, but I hope that we can reawaken from COVID-19 in a healthy recovery. Always one to try and force out some glimmers of positivity, I am relishing the current irrelevance of Brexit and dated phoney socialism in the prolonged vanity of Jeremy Corbyn (which have to date stunted the UK’s evolution). It depresses me that it has taken us such an awakening.
Inspiration is something that I feel we all unite in having such a collective yearning to arise. There is the old trope of Einstein’s in ascribing that from every difficulty comes an opportunity and this is something that needs seizing. It’s a shame that it has taken such an unwelcome outburst that allows us to see the failings of austerity in reordering what we feel’s important. This is as suddenly being able to see that funnily enough, we did always have the resources to nurture the same Welfare State that managed to be born amongst a world ravaged by conflict. With this we have the long overdue confirmation that greed is never justified and hoarders of inequalities can never afford to be indulged. It’s just such a shame that it has taken such an unprecedented outburst to prove how, almost ironically, socialism always prospers over capitalism. With this we can celebrate a fairer natural order bring restored in recognising what life should be about as in offering noticeable benefits to everybody.