Recently, the Federal Government and some state governments in Australia have talked more about what a roadmap out of COVID-19 lockdowns might look like. It includes such milestones as easing restrictions when vaccinations reach 70 and 80 percent. Victoria and New South Wales in particular continue to experience lockdowns that are taking an increasing toll on people’s mental health and the economy.
The impacts on both mental health and the economy cannot be separated. The livelihoods of many people have been severely impacted or even taken away as a result of the pandemic and the subsequent lockdowns. This has inevitably taken a toll on people’s mental and emotional well-being.
More than ever, people need a roadmap built on hope.
When an event such as COVID-19 strikes the whole of society, it is the most vulnerable who tend to be affected the most. Take the case of JobSeeker payments. This year, as some parts of the country have fallen back into lockdown and others have avoided it, JobSeeker has reverted back to just above its previous rate after being raised last year for the first time since 1994. This has made it extraordinarily difficult for many people to make ends meet in what is perhaps a more difficult year than 2020.
It was Mahatma Gandhi, among others, who said that the true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members. As both State and Federal Governments start to implement their plans to take us out of lockdown and to restore us to some sort of normality, it is crucial that it is not just the economy that flourishes. The economy is ultimately about people, and for us to be a society in which people can truly flourish, it is the most vulnerable who must be prioritised. They are the ones most affected and are therefore the ones with the most hope to gain from any measures that are put in place.
It is now the generally accepted premise that, due to the rate of infection of the Delta variant, we will not get to zero cases with the current lockdowns in place. Even the Victorian Premier, Daniel Andrews, who has put in place the strictest lockdown in the country, has accepted that we must now determine our roadmap out of lockdown while being prepared for cases to increase until we reach a vaccine threshold.
As well as not getting to zero cases, we need to accept that ‘going back to normal’ is also not going to happen. We are living in a new world now. The life we had pre-pandemic is behind us and it is not coming back. And that is probably a good thing.
It is good because this pandemic has taught us what flourishing can look like. Movements such as The Kindness Pandemic have taken off all over the world and given people hope that humanity will get through this time and not just survive, but thrive. When what we are used to is stripped away from us, we are left with what really matters in life. For the majority of the population, what matters most is relationships.
In a society that has been as stressed as ours has been, especially as lockdowns have lingered, relationships are more important than ever. As Director of Redbridge Consulting Agency, and social commentator, Kos Samaras, has eloquently said,
“What we are all experiencing is not normal. But for the many months and possibly years to come, it will be normal. We all now collectively have been provided a window into the mindset of the WW2 generation. Finally, we can imagine what that world may have felt like to live in.”
My mother, who grew up in Germany during WW2, has said something similar. The last time she experienced anything like our current situation was during the war.
Samaras reminds us to cultivate hope in such a situation. He advises us to stop and smell the flowers, but also to keep moving, as there are many more flowers we will stumble across. “The emotional scar tissue you will develop will be hugely beneficial for the many other challenges that you will face during your life.”
Hope is central to flourishing.
It motivates us to keep going when life is a struggle. We are shaped by our struggles in life. Our scars are a reminder of what we have come through.
Part of CBBC’s Flourishing Framework involves the opportunity to live a purposeful life, where people are living out of their core values. Despite what it can look like at times, most people hold care for others as a value. This deeply held conviction can be fanned into flame in ourselves and those around us. We’ve seen this over and over again through countless acts of service, kindness, and sacrifice. In a world where so many are struggling and at times taking their struggles out on each other, it is more important than ever for us to live hope, by increasing our care for each other and those who are struggling the most.