World Leaders and Us

As coronavirus rips through our nations taking too many lives, the shock wave of illness and death is grinding slowly to a halt as fear about the financial implications takes over as the foremost consequence of this killer pandemic, demonstrating that after the threat of death, financial ruin comes close behind.

Every country moves at a different rate out of full lock down, each one looking to the next to see what is working and what is not, balancing re-opening the economy while minimising the risk of a second spike in covid-19 cases. I don’t envy world leaders their difficult task. While coronavirus exposes underlying health issues and mercilessly robs people of their loved ones, so too does it expose world leaders who did not make their nation’s health a priority. Some countries, such as Taiwan, New Zealand, South Korea and Germany moved quickly to prioritise the nation’s health and while they had fatalities, it was a fraction of the countries who favoured the economy over the elderly, finance over front line workers.

Here in the UK over 35,000 people have died since mid-March. A shocking loss to the country. These are not statistics but lives, hopes, dreams; voters who went to the polls last December and voted for their political leaders. The issue of the day was getting Brexit done. Few focused on health care and the repercussions of an underfunded NHS (National Healthcare System). The election running field was pretty much one sided with the Tories galloping home. Fast forward three months to early March and the onset of the pandemic; the Prime Minister fell at the first hurdle, and the rest of the field scrambled to avoid disaster. Sadly, they did not succeed. Britain is not the only country whose political hierarchy were exposed by the pandemic. Capitalist leaders who begrudgingly enforced a lock down, too late in many cases, demonstrated that administrations value money over lives.

I wonder what we can learn from our leaders, not just in our own country but from the leaders around the world. Do they reflect aspects in all of us, part empathy, part materialistic? How often do we weigh up the monetary cost above the social or civic cost? The mental health implications arising from not just the lock down, but from the national and international loss of life, will be great. We humans have more in common than we have differences. One thing that unites us is our emotions, our ability to feel happiness and joy, grief and sadness. The months of coronavirus have cast a long shadow over humanity, which may take years to lift.

Our leaders are really just a reflection of us, our light and our shadow, only they are the ones in the spotlight, the ones we abdicate responsibility to. Maybe it’s time to put ourselves under the spotlight, to asses our empathy, to see if we favour finance over health, and comfort over caution. We are all in this together, and it is up to us to keep taking steps towards a better future. We can’t continue to put responsibility for important issues in the hands of government and blame them when they get it wrong. While it is up to us to hold those in power accountable, we can’t fall into a comatose state in front of the TV and then rail against our world leaders for the state of the world. We must educate ourselves on environmental and health issues, and the long term implication these have on us as humans and the rest of the planet. If humanity is to survive, we the people, are its only hope.

Collette O’Mahony 22/05/2020

Art by @the.rebel.bear. Graffiti Street Art on Bath Street, Glasgow.

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