At numerous points in any given day I have allowed my mind to run with fantasies of the current UK government and their masters coming out of the current health crisis with a newfound sense of compassion and as a result, humanitarian responses to this grossly unequal society. A new dawning, a new kind of society where currently accommodated homeless people remained sheltered and are supported to ensure that this basic physiological need is ever met. One can but dream, however naively. Whether the crisis might in fact unearth some deep seated, and thus far wholly absent modicum of authentic decency, or whether what some have described as ‘ultra-austerity’ is thrust upon a seemingly, largely subservient society, remains to be seen. The knowledge that the choice to bail out banks and the resulting decade of extreme cutbacks was entirely driven by political ideology, is by no means a revelation. The most recent election result has done nothing if not reinvigorate the neoliberal agenda. For the egalitarian dream to even begin to be realised, this ideology would require to be at least diluted– however much more likely – voted out. People seek reform, regardless of political stance – be that embracing inclusiveness of individuals, groups and culture, or the polarised viewpoint that Great Britain with all its superior-superiority needs to build some walls. It might be argued that the current political set will rely on widespread post-crises apathy amongst voters and hope to capitalise -perhaps even make ‘super normal returns’ – on this to their own end.
Petrie (2020) posits that post-crisis, an alternative to an even more extreme form of the political status quo will present within a small window of opportunity, which we must grab. In considering what a more just society needs at its core, the value of dignity surely cannot be underestimated. Thus, any self-respecting individual would be loathe to view a global health crisis of epic proportions as a potential to ‘be rid’ of swathes of the population based on age, for example. Furthermore, the duplicitous position of a government seemingly championing a health system which they have gone to extreme lengths to decimate, too does not exist in the realms of dignity. Architects of policy might do well to frame their decision making around this core value – their own and those whom they purport to represent and advocate on behalf of. Many are savvy to the disingenuousness of soundbites and political rhetoric and as such action plans and strategic frameworks require to be realistic and robustly measured by outcomes for people. Any policy driver should address the structural oppression inherent within service provision – from access and ability to influence decision making about social issues which affect you/your loved ones/those you care for in professional capacity; to the implementation and monitoring stages. This applies to policy relating to the aforementioned shelter and other physiological needs such as food.
Whilst it is arguably prejudicial to judge a person born into extreme opportunity due to an archaic system in the form of peerage; it is perhaps less so to judge a person on their lack of basic humanity due to this predetermined state. It would appear simply inconceivable that the soi-disant elite could or should foster any form of empathy for those born and/or enslaved into the antipodal position which remains the preserve of so many within society. It would seem perfectly reasonable to suggest that a better future is entirely dependent on a more just society and that to achieve this, the values of dignity and empathy need to begin to be realised. If the horrors of the current health crisis can offer a glimmer of hope to this end, this may well be the moral reset we need.
By Lauren Henderson