Taking kindness to the next level
Over the last two months we have seen some truly extraordinary acts of kindness, epitomised no more than by 100-year-old Captain Tom Moore raising nearly £33m for the NHS by walking 100 laps of his garden! However, apart from these individual acts of altruism, it has been evident a different approach has also surfaced in many of our social institutions. This has given us the opportunity to think about how we might want to re-shape our society with kindness at its heart.
Government – a kinder mode of public discourse
With our politicians requiring us to go above and beyond our usual sacrifices, it has not gone unnoticed that a kinder tone has entered government communications. The huge economic boost that has been injected into the Coronavirus crisis has been welcomed by us all, but arguably more so is the way in which we have felt that our policy makers are talking to us as equals, as partners in working out what needs to be done. This cannot but inform a kinder mode of public discourse going forward. If one lesson has been learnt in the corridors of power over the last couple of months it is that if politicians want the public to do something, a sensitive approach works best. Might not this be extended to all areas of social policy.
Health – parity between mental and physical
From fundraising efforts to the weekly clap, it is without doubt the NHS which has seen the greatest outpouring of kindness in recent times. But we are not just clapping our brilliant health workers because of their ability to perform their roles, but also for the mental energy they are pouring into them as well. Coping with the emotional challenge of dealing with so many very ill people is perceived as praiseworthy as being able to work a ventilator. Inherent in this is an understanding of how mental health affects physical health and vice versa. This understanding is likely to be extended to how we view service users in our health systems as well; and as a result, the long-sought parity between mental health and physical health that many have been promoting for years could just have moved a step closer.
Work – a renewed dialogue
Flexible working arrangements and concerns about the health of individual workers and their caring responsibilities for their families have arguably been higher up the agenda under lockdown than ever before. This renewed dialogue between business and employees can become something to cherish in the months and years ahead: productivity and worker wellbeing can sit side by side just fine. And as we come out of lockdown and back into work, employers are likely to notice how this kinder relationship can inspire a more motivated workforce and become the new normal.
Education – healing the digital divide
Under a new government initiative, children from disadvantaged backgrounds have been receiving free laptops and tablets to help them learn from home during lockdown. The ‘free laptops’ scheme could be the beginning of healing a digital divide that has been with us since computers and the internet became as ubiquitous in education as pen and paper. A truly kind way of educating our young people would be to ensure that every child has access to all the resources and support they need, online or offline, in the classroom or at home.
Media – a more inclusive approach
Now that we are all in this together and the reality is that anyone can now find themselves prone to a mental health problem, it could be argued the media is taking a more inclusive approach to how they tackle the issue of mental health. Be it news, drama or even light entertainment – programme makers are confronting the mental health difficulties inherent in finding oneself feeling isolated and anxious, lonely and withdrawn. These are the kind of feelings many of us have been experiencing long before this crisis begun and will continue to feel long after, but going forward we may be able to get some solace from a more mental health aware media.
Environment – kinder to our planet
Thinking globally, the one overwhelming plus point from this crisis is in relation to climate change. Whether we intend it or not, our current ways of living – although hugely traumatic to ourselves – are actually kinder to our planet. Kinder and wiser, many would argue. Worldwide the crisis has led to a dip in CO₂ emissions from pre-crisis levels, and in London pollution levels are down to their lowest since records began in 2000. This has encouraged environmental campaigners to believe human beings are capable of changing their behaviour if the crisis they are up against is perceived as serious enough. As we begin to surface from the Coronavirus crisis, we cannot forget we are still heavily submerged in the climate crisis.