Covid Considerations: Thinking time and new ways of thinking

| Robert Punton

This blog is part of our Covid Considerations series and is written by Robert Punton. Robert is a social change activist, writer, performing poet and businessman. He is a Co-Director of Community Navigator Services CIC, a user-led organisation with two key aims: to help people help themselves, and to support organisations change to become more accessible and approachable. Robert and two colleagues have also developed a peer support group called Better Lives Alliance with and for people who employ their own Personal Assistant (PA) and their PAs. Robert has been working for many years with his Personal Assistants Michael Orme and Darren Harrison.

Is it not strange how things change over time. Only two months ago, I was writing with delight about the ‘delight’ of lockdown. How it was allowing me time to reflect. Now I am complaining about how I have no time to myself, let alone reflection time. I’m spending every daylight hour and some hours of the dark bouncing from online meeting to online meeting. Reflection is important, writing, thinking, helping yourself and others: all need time to reflect.

So, this blog is dedicated to discussing my journey from there to here and what it means for me.

I am pragmatic, even fatalistic, never letting anything stop me from achieving my ambitions or goals. Some call me pig-headed, and that maybe so if it is needed. Being a 50-odd disabled man, I have encountered and fought many obstacles, barriers and things that could kill me. So in some ways, Covid-19 does not scare me. That is not to say I am blasé about the pandemic — that would be suicidal, and I am not that; I also have responsibility for the safety of others. Life has taught me to think and act like this, my view of the world has been shaped by my experiences and biases, both conscious and unconscious.

Lockdown has created many freedoms and connections which would never have been open to us in the pre-pandemic world. People have invited me into their homes via a laptop screen to share conversations, ideas, and a heavy portion of fun. My poetry has opened many virtual doors for me, allowing me platforms that would be and have been inaccessible to me in the physical world, allowing me to travel across the globe in seconds. My now-global audience has increased ten-fold as a campaigner, businessman, activist, and performer.

The lockdown regime has meant that as a disabled person I no longer need to worry about travelling to meetings and events, and all the stresses that involves such as travel, parking, wondering will the venue be accessible? Will it have toilets I can get into?

On the flip side, no travel means you are available to attend back-to-back meetings, leaving no time for reflection. If you are not careful, you can overstretch yourself both physically and mentally and there goes any pretence of wellbeing. One of the pitfalls of working from home during lockdown is that there is no separation between home and work. Once I am released from lockdown, I look forward to getting my home back. I am sure many people can relate to this.

I am concerned that the newfound freedoms and connections will be lost or at least reduced once lockdown is lifted. Of course, not everyone has access to these freedoms; the lack of funds and equipment prohibits many more from accessing and participating in the virtual world. The pandemic has highlighted the widening of the gap between those with and without even the most basic resources. What some take for granted, others can only dream of which only goes to show that things must change drastically once we are released and we venture into the new world.

And things are different now. You only need to look at the Black Lives Matter movement which has sprung up over the murder of George Floyd by racist police in Minneapolis. People in their thousands across the USA, across Europe, including cities across the UK, are risking their lives to take to the streets, protesting, taking the knee to say enough is enough. But do not be deceived, it is not just the events in the States that people are reacting to, it is the systematic racism that exists everywhere. The tearing down of statues of racist anti-heroes demonstrates this.

Let us not forget that Covid-19 has killed four times as many black lives and three times as many Asian lives as their white counterparts. Is it any wonder people take to the street saying “If Covid doesn’t get me, racist coppers might. So, we will take our chances.”

It is not only that movement which demonstrates the changing of the tides. People have realised that the old ways of doing things are not fit for purpose today and ordinary citizens have both the ability and confidence to do things which they gave over to others to do and decide before. They can achieve things that benefit themselves and others. Do things differently in ways that seem less cluttered and complicated – ensuring that many more can comprehend and contribute.

New grassroot communities are sprouting up every day that lockdown continues; communities are being redefined as global connections and communication networks spread. Communities are expanding as the world appears to be shrinking. Conversely, old-established organisations are having to rethink their practices and policies before the world realises that they have become redundant and are no longer needed.

Remember lockdown is not a capitalist structure.  It allows new revolutionary ways of thinking and doing. Let us not lose that in our new reality.

In conclusion, let us remember solitude is good, loneliness is bad. The trick is to learn the lessons of lockdown solitude. So we can create better communities, better connections and be more aware of the needs of ourselves and others. If we can do this, then lockdown can have a positive conclusion.

The poet in me demands I finish thus:

Beautiful Butterfly

I urge you to look at lockdown like this

We went in like timid caterpillars

After months of being locked up

We emerge like beautiful butterflies

Full of splendid diversity and difference

But with a singular purpose for our new reality

To build a brighter better world for us all

Date poem written 25th June 2020.

Follow Rob on Twitter @PuntonRobert and read his Journal of a Pandemic.

This blog is part of our Covid Considerations blog series.

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