When we had the idea to ISR blog in the week after lockdown in late March, we could not have imagined that it would have such resonance. Since the start of April we have had nearly 50 posts, charting our immediate response as an academic community to a once in a 100-year event.
In receiving, reviewing and editing the posts each day – I have oscillated between hope and despair; and somewhere in between. Fear that we may have permanently given up our way of life to fight this disease, but then hope that perhaps we can reimagine part of it for the better in its aftermath. Moreover, some of the historical entries have prompted me to wondered if the ordinary people felt the same during the Spanish flu pandemic a century ago? Likely at times they did feel hopeless, not least the populations of Europe, the USA and the Empire had just endured 4 years of war. Yet as a species we did bounce back from Spanish flu – and made it all the way to the moon! So I have no doubt that we will do so again.
And so, in setting out to summarise what is already an historical document, the blog falls into four broad categories;
- The pandemic has the potential to permanently alter the way in which we organise our lives. Many of us have become more creative and learnt new skills. It has been a journey of discovery, individually, institutionally, economically, and as a society, and may even solve the EHU car parking problem, and we have all got used to working remotely.
- Vigilance is needed when loaning out our ‘civil liberties’ for the perceived ‘greater good’; what surveillance and other genies have we let out of the bottle during this period – and can we put them back? Relatedly, how do we do ‘politics’ in times of crisis and how to we critique constructively?
- In the longer term, the ‘cure’ for Covid-19 may end up being more harmful than the disease. Many posts illustrate just how hard it is in our complex and integrated world, to take difficult decisions in the absence of full or good information.
- History repeats – or at least rhymes. Thankfully, the red X was not put on our front doors this time, but other aspects of the accounts of pandemics passed, were eerily familiar; including the both the mythology and inequalities arising therefrom.
As the blog entered its final week, it also reflected on ‘what’s next?’. As we emerge from ‘lockdown’ will society be kinder, or will we miss the opportunity to make permanent changes as we flock back to the shops, and queue for ‘drive through’ take away? Perhaps some of the philosophical perspectives also expressed in the blog will help us we take away the good, leave behind at least some of the bad, and make it back to the moon?
In the next few weeks we will be compiling all the blog entries into a pdf document. This will be available to download from the ISR website. We also intend to host an anniversary event in March 2021 where we will ask some of the bloggers to reflect on their posts; what happened next, did they get their predictions right – and what do they think now? More information on this event will also follow.
Finally I would like to thank all the contributors and readers of the blog. You all made it a huge success; and I look forward to seeing you all on campus one day very soon!
Prof Jo Crotty, Director: Institute for Social Responsibility, Edge Hill University