Editorial: Responding to uncertainty
My family and I have often talked about how this strange time we’re living through will remain in our memory. The masks are an obvious one. I imagine finding one down the back of a chest of drawers years from now, and the memories flooding back.
How they steamed up your glasses. How you felt about the person on the bus who wasn’t wearing one. Leaving the house without it and having to go back.
I imagine we’ll remember the quietness of the first lockdown. The empty streets. The wild goats occupying Llandudno.
Maybe seeing an empty shelf in the supermarket will take me back. That time we couldn’t get our hands on toilet roll or pasta or tinned tomatoes.
Maybe seeing two people have a conversation six feet apart will make me say: ‘Do you remember?’
In all these imaginings of the future, I’m looking back on the strangeness of today from a world where things have returned to normal. The pandemic passes and we look back on it as an aberration now that life has reverted to its usual path.
There is another possibility though, which is that in the long term we remember the pandemic less than we expect because of the magnitude of the events which follow it. Rather than returning to normal, we find ourselves entering historically unsettled times, the pandemic merely an aperitif for the truly momentous things that follow.
As I write, 130,000 Russian troops are amassed on Ukraine’s borders, and experts seem pretty sure that by the time you read this they will have invaded. How will western powers respond to the invasion of a friendly European country? What would a belligerent response lead to? What would a placatory response lead to? And how far does Mr Putin’s ambition extend towards restoring Russia’s glory days of empire?
Other commentators focus on China’s plans towards Taiwan, which the US has committed to defend. The world is looking rather unstable, as we start to take our masks off. And that’s before we add Mr Trump and climate change to the scenario.
We do not know what lies around the corner. Fears and hopes can both prove fantasies. But history and current affairs both tell us that having lived your whole life in times of peace and prosperity is not a guarantee that they will continue. They are more fragile than they feel.
How do we respond to this? I give hearty thanks for all the blessings of peace and prosperity that I enjoy. I hope and pray for peace, without a clear idea of what difference that is supposed to make. I get on with my life, remembering that worrying does not save anyone. And I resolve to be faithful whatever that might involve.
This article was published in the March 2022 edition of Reform