At the AMH we would like to ask everyone to support all healthcare and medical staff, working or waiting to work to save the lives of people who become ill due to Corona virus. Many of you are our members. You are stepping up to care for all of us, despite your fears and if you have not already, then you will be self-isolating as you continue to work. You do this not simply to protect yourselves but to stay well in order to be able to continue to provide healthcare for us. You already know that some of you will become ill and from what we can see in other countries, some will die. The work you do demands incredible sacrifices. Some of you have come from other countries to work here and have vulnerable family in the places you have come from, or here in the UK. We value you and are more than grateful for what you do, quietly, consistently and methodically under such pressures. Tell us how we can support you.
There is much talk about uncertainty, yet every day many people in our society live with uncertainty in the form of compromised immunity. For everyone else, this is probably the first time to live with such an everyday fear of illness taking over. Yet it is also different. Travelling though what Susan Sontag has called the ‘nightside of life’ is different for those who know everyday illness and those who are (rightly) fearful of this unknown virus. We are learning how many of our families, friends and colleagues are vulnerable. Extreme fear also, of course can inhibit the immune system, placing the body on alert. Extreme fear in the face of such uncertainty also makes people selfish. The elderly need particular support as do people with compromised immunity. Physical gestures of love and care, hugs and handshakes are not possible. For those whose immune systems are compromised, the balance of maintaining health is a delicate balance requiring support as uncertainty is heightened.
At this time everything feels incredibly uncertain and we are changing our behaviours. There are many rumours as people search for certainty. Living with uncertainty is challenging and living with fear is very difficult. We can reach out more to those around us as time goes by and share the burden through small acts of kindness and practical gestures. Humour is a useful ally. We urge you to maintain links with older people and with all of those who are keeping things going. Low paid staff are often overlooked, for example those working in supermarkets or cleaning hospitals and transport systems. They did not sign up to care or be on the front line yet this is where they find themselves on very low wages. They need appreciation and support. Many are also refugees or economic migrants. Consider too our gig economy and people on zero hours contracts who now have no income. People on low or no wages are the most vulnerable to loss of income. And their voices are not as loud as businesses. These people also maintain many services or work in museums, theatres and large cultural institutions that we take for granted. Consider too the homeless, and those at risk.
In this time, some people are stranded in other countries. In the UK, many people are working from home, others have no work, and some are confined to home. It certainly looks like this may become more the case.
This is very different from a war when living in and with community creates forms of solidarity. This is a form of solidarity at arms length, as it were. And it’s one that asks us all to conform, which is not easy when people like to think and be independent. Selfishness is a form of turning away from community, an inward withdrawal that is natural protection in the face of fear but it’s a very short-term reaction. It does not help us become resilient. It does not support those around us, nor what makes us human; the care for others. Positive emotions, humour and keeping an active mind supports a healthier immune system. Mindfulness helps too. Communication also. There are many strategies. Social media is brilliant but can also be scary, so be wary of rumours that can grow exponentially. This virus is new and there is no sure means of protection. Coping is key in an already over-stretched NHS without enough ventilators, beds or indeed staff. Literature is another ally. Travel in imaginary worlds. Think about what matters, reflect.
Consider that other major uncertainty, climate crisis. Where does the food in supermarkets come from? How much is essential and how much is driven by consumer culture. What is necessary? How much is usually thrown out or away. When things are not available it is annoying and can be frightening as this is not our normal world. Uncertainty is also a time for opportunity to stand still and reassess. When choices are removed, other choices become possible. There is time to reflect.
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Next week, in the face of uncertainty, the members of the council will meet (online) to decide in the interests of all, what will happen about the conference. We will let you know what has been decided. Meanwhile we hope you and your loved ones stay safe and well, Jennifer