This may seem a peculiar post to write on a thinktank blog, yet writing it is a result of my sense that beliefs are at least as important as Mckinsey-style measurement. They certainly are in the world outside the hothouse we know as the Westminster ‘bubble’.
Why, after all, is a good quarter to a third of the adult population of continental Europe so keen to avoid vaccination? Because of the fundamental beliefs they hold about covid that frame their responses.
The real issue about the disaster that has hit the world is not so much about statistics anyway – but about what we believe about it. Not so much about precisely who caused it, but about its true significance.
And here we find ourselves in a largely evidence-free zone. What I can say is that the real issue around covid is what it is for – and therefore why it has arrived.
There will certainly be positivists out there who think these kind of questions have no meaning because they are unverifiable. They are certainly unverifiable now, but they derive their meaning from being able to verify them one day – either individually after we die or sometime before that.
The real leap I take here is to introduce the Jungian idea of a collective unconscious into a policy discussion. Though I am aware that,by introducing a past and a future, I’m already straying some way from Jung’s original idea.
it possible, in other words, for our own human futures and our combined human pasts have been wrestling with ways to draw humanity into a safer space?
Are there ways in which humanity can survive the combination of crises before us?
I don’t know, but our future selves do know and I believe covid was a way to bring us to that safer space.
Remember that covid-19 has been a virus that targeted the old and infirm. It has not targeted children, nor young, fit and healthy people like the flu epidemic of a century ago. And believe me – I lost my wonderful mum to covid – so I understand that these are not losses that are miraculously pain-free.
I was involved last year in writing some background materials for three short films, made via the New Weather thinktank about the enormous benefits of covid – as well as the obvious difficulties it has brought in its wake.
Maybe it was a kind of minimum viable package capable of nudging humanity in the right direction – of survival. You can see the almost miraculous lessons learned within days of the first lockdown and since, in the UK, that local people working together can achieve a great deal more than centralised or corporate diktat.
It showed us that we can look after homeless people if we want to. It encouraged people to get back on a bike.
The issue is whether we can learn the lessons, about flying in particular. The most obvious is the lesson about sharing vaccines. It seems obvious to me that we will have more panics like the one we are now having about the omicron variant, and while we queue in the cold drizzle – as I did last week – to get my third dose, there are so many other people around the world who need a first one.
Until we can think in a little more human ways, we may be doomed just to repeat this over and over again.
So, what is it that you believe about covid?