By Xenophon Hasapis
Can you cast your mind back, to the good old days, before the onslaught of covid-19? Do you remember the many occasions when you used to shut yourself at home? Home has been our place of rest, comfort, concentration, even isolation, when for whatever reason one wanted to avoid a social contact.
“My home is my castle” I remember my late father telling us, a phrase taken from medieval times in Britain, which he came to appreciate while studying at Edinburgh University, just after the second World War.
Fast forward to present times when, in fear of the massive spread of the covid-19 disease, governments all over have imposed strict restrictions on our mobility. Now everyone who is not fighting this war is confined at home. Moods and feelings have changed. Oh, how wonderful it would be if we could be allowed to invite a few friends to our place. Even if only on a Sunday.
It is ironical perhaps, but it takes the lifting of a freedom to make one appreciate what we used to take for granted. The right to move around is, of course, one such freedom. Under ‘ordinary’ times, we would not accept even thinking about losing it. Equally, we shied away from any consideration of what it takes to be able to afford such freedoms. Elements such as a properly functioning civil service providing healthcare, defence, law and order, equal opportunities for all, support for the weakest.
It appears now that the care for such elements cannot and should not be abandoned to the laws of unrestrained capitalism. In a society structured around the maximisation of private wealth, some take advantage and amass millions, over and above any requirement to live a safe and comfortable existence. I hope we now realise that this has come at a cost. What a few have accumulated has been taken out of the reach of the many. The public infrastructure has been neglected, and there have not been adequate provisions for dire times such as a war, an epidemic, or extreme natural phenomena.
Regrettably, this applies to many so called developed countries. A striking example is the heated resistance against the initiative of the former US President Obama for expansion of the healthcare system to include millions of Americans without any insurance. Now, as covid-19 escalates, it is not the private doctors and clinics people turn to for help, it is the struggling public healthcare.
Can these thoughts and considerations be put into practical application? Can we keep them in mind when the disease has passed away? It is not easy. It will require a change of mindset from each of us. Prime of all, to refrain from looking solely at one’s individual interests, as the need arises to take collective actions for the care of groups of people less privileged than us. Therefore, when political discussion opens on the fortunes of the homeless, the uninsured, those in permanent bad health, children without parents, the refugees, the victims of violence and drug abuse, etc., never send to know for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee (from a poem by John Donne, 1624).
Xenophon Hasapis is a consultant and trainer of business teams and talents