01/11/20 – COVID and Privilege

So, today I begin my pledge to write 1000 words a day for the whole of November. The idea came to me when I was smelling hand-sanitiser in work, I was just about to complain about the smell when the penny dropped. The thought entered my head, ‘Well, aren’t you just lucky you can wash your hands I’m sure there are people who can’t’. This thought developed further when I started wondering who in the world actually cannot easily wash their hands? Well needless to say this is how I landed on Africa. Now I know this could sound naive but I honestly hadn’t even considered sanitation whenever considering access to clean water. I mean the Trocaire adverts all only ever talk about drinking water so I’ll forgive myself. 

So, when I first started researching the idea I found the Water Project. They’re an American charity which isn’t ideal but the unique thing about them is they send detailed progress reports on where your money has been spent. I think it’s possible that during the 90’s and 00’s African aid got a bit ‘bate out’, for lack of a better term. A lot of the money that went to Africa during those early days didn’t end up in the right hands and oftentimes wells were built without any real practical input into planning. Consequently, nowadays you can find thousands of broken or semi-functional wells across countries like Kenya, Uganda etc. 

Next I began thinking, what could I actually offer the world to entice anybody to donate money to this cause and quickly realised, there’s very little I could do. However, the fact is that people who don’t have easy access to clean water don’t get a choice. They don’t have a say in the matter, their nearest water source is their nearest water source and that’s just that. They face these challenges every single day. So what could we do to show solidarity? Well there’s millions of things we could do in terms of competitions, running, bake sales etc. but these are all one offs. After speaking to my friends about it I settled on the idea of doing something every single day for a month. If you’re going to be doing something every day for a month you’ll want to make sure it’s sustainable. Well in the end I decided I’d challenge myself to write 1000 words a day for every day of November. It’s good because I don’t really enjoy writing, I haven’t done it since I left school and I think I’ll need it for my chosen career path. For all of these reasons it made perfect sense for me to choose writing. 

I will, however, confess that 1000 words is definitely more than I anticipated. When I was in school I always found myself running out of words because I always had so much to say, anyone who knows me will know this is still true. I’ve only just worked out that the reason I always had so much to say was because there was a question to answer. In this case it’s proving slightly more difficult due to there being literally no prompt other than myself. I suspect that by the end of the month my writing should be noticeably different. I’m returning to work tomorrow too so I might get some ideas from that. 

One thing that I do think is worth talking about is privilege, the pandemic has been an absolute nightmare but one thing that it has exposed is how privileged we are. When I say we I’m talking about the so-called ‘West’ and when I say pandemic I really mean lockdown. Our lockdown started from the last week of March, I’m not sure about anyone else but I definitely feel like a bit of a clown for how serious I took that lockdown. It all seems so unnecessary now, at the start we weren’t even allowed in each others’ gardens. That said, it was a pretty small sacrifice to stay in the house with the majority of people receiving some form of pay. Granted, there have been horrible job losses and I feel for those people I really do, my girlfriend didn’t qualify for furlough so didn’t get paid at all so I feel your pain. However, for those of us who were lucky enough to be looked after either by our employers or the furlough scheme, we didn’t half complain. I don’t know about other people’s houses but we had 5 in our house for lockdown and all any of us did was complain. I was probably the worst for it, I know it’s fatiguing and depressing to sit in the house but was it really that much of an ask? Fancy being a nurse during lockdown? I definitely don’t. 

Well for all of our flat screen televisions, multi-car households and smartphones which we update every two years – we still found enough time to complain. I can’t be certain in saying this but it’d be my guess that humans unprecedented technological advancements over the past 20 years has probably made us more privileged than ever before in human history. Everything is instant, I mean the rate of change is astonishing. I remember 1080p becoming a thing on YouTube and now you hardly get a video in lower resolution. I remember literally 5 years ago videos buffering all the time and things taking way longer to load. Everything is so quick now, when you click on to watch a film on Netflix do you ever stop to consider you’ve just downloaded a 2 hour long 4K film in actual seconds. It’s crazy to me, anyway, this all stands to reason that when all of a sudden things aren’t instant and aren’t perfect we flip the lid. In the Western world we have so much convenience that it blows any inconvenience way out of proportion although if we’re honest lockdown was a really rather major inconvenience. 

Point still stands, if we in the Western world are struggling with the pandemic in spite of all of our money and technology and health care systems. Stop and imagine how those who are less fortunate than us are struggling. I think if more people had that mindset during lockdown we might’ve been a better country when we came out.

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