The coronavirus pandemic is bringing out our best instincts
One of the significant differences between cultures in the east and the west is how they identify themselves. People in the east tend to see themselves as part of a larger collective (willing to make sacrifices for the group), while people in the west see themselves as individuals first.
We value our individual rights and independence, resisting being told what to do. We’re often self-reliant, facing challenges on our own and expecting others to ‘pull themselves up by their bootstraps’. And we can find it embarrassing to have to ask for help.
But when a crisis hits – whether a natural disaster or a pandemic – it brings out our collective spirit and a desire to pull together to solve a common problem.
We’ve seen that community spirit in a number of ways the past couple of months:
- In the overwhelming response to the NHS’s call for volunteers. Over 750,000 people raised their hand to help vulnerable people with their shopping needs, driving people to and from hospital, ensuring equipment and supplies are in the right place and to simply have a chat with those who are lonely in isolation
- In the more than 10,000 people who signed up to help feed the nation by taking on seasonal work in farms across the country picking fruit and vegetables
- In the more than 4,000 mutual aid groups set up by small groups and communities across England to ensure neighbours have the food and household supplies they need
Adam Forrest of the Independent wrote about these mutual aid groups, many of which are operating on Facebook or through WhatsApp messages. He spoke to one man, Louise Vine, 28, who set up a mutual aid group in Telegraph Hill in London.
‘Mutual aid groups have emerged very quickly to fill the gaps locally. It’s been necessary. But we’re committed to working with other groups and organisations who might come along to help meet the needs of the community in different ways as time goes on.’
Kelsey Mohamad, 28, set up the same grassroots group in Islington in north London.
‘We knew local authority services were not going to be able to spring into action an support everyone’s needs immediately. Who better than neighbours to do that job quickly?’
Covid-19 Mutual Aid UK is the national group co-ordinating efforts and providing support for the local groups.
‘No matter what we look like, where we live, or how much money we have, getting sick reminds us that at our core we’re all just human. And in every country it’s the old, the sick and those already struggling who will be affected worse. That’s why we set this network up – because we want to make sure that no one in our communities is being left to face this crisis alone, and because we want to try and redress some of the serious inequalities this outbreak will expose.’Anna Vickerstaff, Co-ordinator
Visit their website to find or register a group in your area or to access community resources.