Rediscovering Humanity

By Tony Whitbread

nature collage

Living in Storrington I am not quite a Steyning resident, but Steyning 2030 are looking for lockdown stories so I thought I’d put in my tuppence worth. 

Before COVID19 there was a view of the world.  People were inherently selfish, we were out for personal gain, we competed to get ahead, we judged everything by financial cost and value, we might help others, but only if we got something in return.  It was all about money, possessions, and our individual wealth.  This, we were sold, was how humans were.  Economics, prosperity, progress, position, culture were all based on this proposition.

 In truth many people were uneasy about this, and some did not recognise it as a suitable description for humanity at all.  Yet they were positioned as romantics or idealists, fighting pointlessly against reality.  When problems come – it’s every person for themselves.  Ideals about neighbourliness, compassion, the environment and concern for others would be pushed aside in the struggle for survival.

Well a problem has come!  And what happened?  We did not turn into savages beating each other down.  The world over (including in Storrington!), there was an outbreak of civilisation.  We turned into fine human beings.  We saw the spontaneous emergence of community self-help with people organising to help others – voluntarily, with no expectation of reward or even recognition.  We did not trash our local spaces – we cherished them.  Conversations were rich with stories about wildlife sightings, clean air and the ability to hear birdsong with lower traffic noise.  There were plenty of tragedies, but we wanted more of the silver lining.

Of course there were exceptions, but they were noticeable because they were the obvious minority.  And I’m not sure all our world leaders fit this “fine humanity” story!

From this re-emergence of our humanity may lie a deeper collective wisdom – the importance of the global commons.  Globally and locally much of what we hold dear are assets that we hold in common, not riches that we grasp as individuals.  The Downs, birdsong, a fine sunset, clean air and water, community, neighbourliness and even health.  They are the most important things in life, they are assets we all hold dear, but they cannot be bought or sold and are not controlled by the state.  They do not fit the prevailing economic world view but are pointing towards a new paradigm – the global commons.

So, my lockdown story is that we have rediscovered local community, local greenspace, local nature, local businesses, and local produce. Indeed, in Steyning perhaps you already had – COVID19 just brought it to the surface.