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Opinion: This current crisis is calling for the emergence of a bolder, braver and kinder humanity

Ruairí McKiernan says yes, this is a scary time, but our social structure hasn’t been working for everyone, and we may have an opportunity to change.

Ruairí McKiernan Social innovator and campaigner

IT’S NOT EASY being hopeful hope when it seems like the world is falling apart around you. Right now, so many of us are losing jobs and businesses, anxious about the health of our loved ones, cancelling events and projects we’ve worked hard to create.

We’re contending with home-schooling and missing our families, and having to turn ourselves into multitasking household heroes. There’s the loss of real connection: eye contact, hugs, chats, social outlets, the craic and the banter. It’s all about staying apart now, a reminder of how much we do actually need each other. 

It’s an incredible moment. One of pain, stress and strain for so many, as well as great courage and commitment, of people rising to the challenge. There are the heroic healthcare workers, those keeping our food, fuel and medical supplies flowing, the parents giving their all, and neighbourhood volunteers birthing a modern meitheal of social solidarity. Then there are the moments of quiet, the stillness, and a much-needed pause for some.

Gratitude

In the midst of all of this, I find myself experiencing a renewed sense of gratitude for our farmers and food producers, shop staff, cleaners, drivers and delivery teams. So too the postal staff, undertakers, midwives, lab workers and so many other roles that make up a vital chain of support and survival.   

I’ve been thinking too about those for whom upheaval is their everyday reality. The people of Gaza, those fleeing bombing in Syria and Yemen, the poor, the sick, the homeless, and those in refugee camps and shelters praying for better days.

Love over fear

The phrase we’re all in this together is becoming a battle cry in this new age of uncertainty. Collapsing ecosystems and mass extinctions, fires in Australia and in the Amazon, polluted skies and oceans – the climate emergency poses as big a threat as any virus.  

The ecological crisis, as with Covid-19, demands an urgent and unified response. It requires a global consciousness with local roots that can reveal the strength of an interconnectedness that goes beyond age, gender, sexuality, skin colour, ability, nationality, or our political and spiritual beliefs. We really are all in this together, or at least we need to be.

There will always be those who seek to separate us – sowing division in an age-old dance of divide and conquer to profit and exploit. We should be mindful of power grabs in times like this, including calls for fire sales, bail-outs and the suspension of democracy. So too with cynicism, the mindset that can kill our dreams before they are born.

We may be at the threshold of something much bigger than all of this – a once in a lifetime opportunity to reflect, recalibrate, and reboot. Our last chance to reset the operating system. An awakening to something new, or perhaps a return to something real and ancient. Perhaps this moment is an invitation to break the stranglehold of the day to day drudgery that was killing us slowly with busyness, stress, and the loneliness of those for whom social isolation has been the norm.

The heartbreaking devastation being inflicted by Covid-19 is opening up a doorway. An unexpected chink in the armour has appeared. An invitation through the chaos that is calling for a bolder, braver and kinder humanity to emerge. A choice of love versus fear.

There is no ‘going back to normal’ and nor should there be. Normal has been a place where we were hurtling towards an ecological cliff. Normal has been a place where many of us can’t afford a secure home, where others sleep on the street, in hostels, and over-crowded Direct Provision centres. Normal has been hours spent in a soul-crushing commute, the exorbitant cost of childcare, and jobs that are underpaid and undervalued during what has been a boom time for billionaires and corporations.  

A new normal

Normal has been a world of spin, cover-ups and continual promises that someday we’ll have proper public transport, housing, healthcare, and environmental protections. Normal has been a land where too many were falling into depression, despair and a sense that there was no alternative and, no hope.

The current flourishing of kindness, empathy, community and compassionate action is an expression of what was always there – the innate strength of humanity that inspired our ancestors to work together through tough times.

At a time when the world was already at a critical crossroads, this collective spirit can become our new normal. It’s a sentiment that can be easily dismissed as naïve and utopian yet let’s look to the past.

The history of Ireland – and the world – is one in which hope was so often born out of incredible darkness. In a world falling apart, a new one can come together. This can be a moment to be seized, a call to all, an opportunity to forge hope in the fire of this great unknown.

Ruairí McKiernan is the author of Hitching for Hope – a Journey into the Heart and Soul of Ireland. He is also the European Director of Narrative 4 and host of the Love and Courage podcast. Tune in to the live stream of his book launch and community conversation tonight, Thursday 26 March at 8pm GMT.  Guests include Lynn Ruane, Frances Black, and violinist Colm Mac Con Iomaire. See Facebook.com/hopehitching and www.hitchingforhope.com | Twitter @ruairimckiernan 

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About the author:

Ruairí McKiernan  / Social innovator and campaigner

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