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Reform Magazine | November 27, 2020

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Editorial: A strange kind of crisis

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‘These are strange times’ is the phrase I think I’ve heard more than any other since the start of the coronavirus crisis. Historically, and indeed geographically, it is probably not so strange to live through a health crisis, however unusual it feels for us in today’s west. What is strange is for a crisis to feel so calm.

This will hardly be the case for those working in hospitals, or for those whom this global crisis throws into a personal crisis. But for many of us, the pandemic is a disaster which makes our world beguilingly still and tranquil. We are forced to change our lives radically, for the duration – but by cutting out commuting, cutting down shopping, and doing an awful lot more sitting around indoors.

One morning shortly after the lockdown started, a little before nine, I stepped out of my front door and was rooted to the spot. I stood there for a few minutes, spellbound. There was no one apart from me on my street and no traffic moving. Every 20 or 30 seconds, a van went past the end of the road. That’s the A20, the main road through Lewisham in southeast London. I would expect a traffic jam there on any weekday morning normally, and heavy traffic even at the weekend. There was not a plane in the sky. All I could hear was birdsong and running water – someone’s drain, but still. I’m sure for some of you this is normal life, but not in Lewisham it isn’t.
There are no ruined buildings, no crowds in the streets, no shots fired, no desolation of the natural world. The sun is shining and the TV is on. It is, for many of us, a strange kind of crisis.

The world that eventually emerges from the crisis will also be strange, in ways that are hard to predict. We can expect profound economic and political fallout. Our societies will have to protect themselves from future pandemics. By restricting international travel? By increasing surveillance? Will the UK have to rebuild industry and agriculture to become more self sufficient? Will we permanently revise our attitudes to low-status jobs that have proved indispensable to our survival? Will groceries and other essentials change from being products that consumers buy from corporations into services the state has to guarantee? And that radical plan for universal basic income that Malcolm Torry set out in Reform (Dec 2016/Jan 2017) is reportedly being proposed by the Spanish government and commended by the Pope. Where next?

How will work change? How will church change? As we go into this unknown, Reform will bring you the news, comment, inspiration and debate we all need. And for as long as we’re stuck indoors, you can read the digital edition of Reform for free, going right back to 2014. Visit bit.ly/ReformLockdown, and delve. Good health to you.

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This article was published in the May 2020 edition of Reform

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