'We need a future that is about living again...not just the apportionment of blame'

Prime Minister Boris JohnsonPrime Minister Boris Johnson
Prime Minister Boris Johnson

Iwonder how you’re feeling about the last four months, now that hindsight has begun to kick in?

As lockdown eases, and new guidelines for almost every part of life are released daily, it’s hard not to reflect that everything we do – every new thing we’re allowed to do – isn’t the result of laboured risk assessment and complex decisions.

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Not that we’re risk-averse, or giving in to the health and safety culture so hated by parts of our society (though, honestly, if we weren’t so quick to sue each other we’d never be in that situation) but because every step and every breath needs, at the moment, to be conscious.

For example, every time I went to the supermarket during the darkest period of lockdown, I noticed I was emerging with my nose tickling and feeling a little breathless.

Only when I thought about it, and became conscious of what I was doing, did I note that my nostrils were prickling because of all the disinfecting and cleaning the shops were doing, and because I was subconsciously taking shallow breaths when around other people. I just wasn’t breathing right.

Hindsight gives an insight: has life paused for all this time? Has it become more complicated? Have things suffered? Have new opportunities opened up?

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The pages of the Chron’s website have been a mixed bag over the last week; lots of jobs being lost, beds empty for a month at NGH, other businesses seeing their business boom to the point they’re expanding and developing, stories of personal tragedy mixed with others achieving what they never thought was possible.

The markers of life reduced to video-conferenced isolation, leaving graduates to throw their mortar boards in their back gardens, and even in the CofE we saw a new Archbishop of York begin his tenure while Zooming in his study.

Churches – which have been phenomenally busy over the last few months, learning how to ‘do’ online, or keep in touch with their people, or taking the huge number of funerals that Covid-19 has caused – are beginning to ease from lockdown too.

I wrote a couple of weeks ago about the opening of All Saints.

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That has proceeded well, but we are under no illusions about the future. It is likely to be very different, we cannot (and shall not) act as if that weren’t the case, and it all must begin with a reassessment of what has happened, how we are, and what we need for the future.

Lockdown came so very quickly. Many had to respond with urgency based on limited information, and without knowing the full picture.

Hindsight will leave us wondering why those decisions were made, whether they benefitted anyone, whether – to borrow the prime minister’s catchphrase – they ‘saved lives’ or protected the NHS.

We may, as we consciously or subconsciously work this through, feel angry or disappointed.

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We may feel that we did the best we could given the hand we were dealt. We may feel that the wrong decisions were made, despite the best evidence.

It will take immense energy not to let the easing of lockdown degenerate into a day of reckoning for decision-makers across our diverse economy and society.

This distress and anger is surpassingly the fault of a virus: careful not to take it out on each other, we need a future which is about living again and not just the apportionment of blame.

Let’s become very aware of what we’re doing, and avoid the neurosis of unintended consequences.

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