Over 500,000 people have volunteered to help the NHS in the face of the Coronavirus pandemic; young people offer to do the shopping for the elderly who have to stay at home, and local businesses and supermarkets offer a free delivery service. A few years ago, these facts would’ve shocked the British public – a community well known for its stiff upper lip, the ability to remain emotionless and stoic when facing adversity. But has the recent crisis changed the way the British public act?
Perhaps when it comes to everyday life, we remain as calm and unchanged as ever, but during these unprecedented times the public have united to support each other. Maybe the reputation of having a stiff upper lip is outdated, no longer applicable to the now evidently-empathetic nature of the British population.
Facing the new calamity of Covid-19 is akin to what the nation faced during the outbreak of World War II; when rationing was introduced,everyone had to abide by it in order to ensure there was enough food and supplies to go around. Many other tasks such as conscription, making weapons, and growing vegetables had to be undertaken as part of the war effort, in order to help the country win and to keep spirits high. This is a similar situation to what the country is facing now- everyone is having to stay at home in order to save lives, and key workers such as NHS staff, teachers, shop workers and delivery drivers are risking their lives every day in order to save others.
“Having everybody pull together to help out really establishes hope for the future”
It’s a unique circumstance that has many individuals feeling anxious, depressed and lonely. So having everybody pull together to help out really establishes hope for the future, allowing families to stay positive throughout this tough period. Facebook groups have been set up for individual communities such as villages or towns, where people volunteer to do weekly shopping for the elderly and try to sustain local businesses.
However, despite the strong sense of community that this adversity has engendered there are still some areas that don’t get to experience the support of a community and are in difficult home situations with no help. This includes families who are living in city estates, drug addicts who are unable to access the aid they need and victims of domestic abuse.
“There is still a sense of keeping the public and private spheres separate, and little is being done to assist these people.”
In the UK, and across the world, cases of domestic violence have risen considerably since the enforced lockdown – many victims are now unable to escape, and as the country is focused on dealing with the impact of Covid-19, it’s extremely difficult for victims to get any type of assistance, or even to be able to reach out to report the crime. Furthermore, anyone struggling with addiction can no longer attend in-person recovery support meetings, which a lot of users need to stay sober, and may be more at risk from an overdose due to the emergency services being too busy to respond in time. There is not enough information for those in these challenging positions. There is still a sense of keeping the public and private spheres separate, and little is being done to assist these people.
In spite of this, it has been estimated that “offences including burglary and violence fall by as much as 20% in some areas.” This suggests that crime rates have generally fallen as society has come together (virtually – to maintain social distancing!) in an effort to help the country.
“The use of social media has been pioneering in allowing families, friends and communities to stay in contact”
But is this sense of unity an exclusively British thing? When Italy was in the peak of this catastrophe, people stood outside their homes and on their balconies to sing (granted, each person was singing a different song) but it reinforced this sense of community as everyone was going through the same thing. In the UK, we have our own version of this. At 8pm every Thursday, people step out of their homes to clap for the key workers who are sustaining us during this time. Although we had similar unity in society during wartime, this has proved to be difficult to replicate during the lockdown. The use of social media has been pioneering in allowing families, friends and communities to stay in contact.
— Dan Walker (@mrdanwalker) April 2, 2020
Perhaps the focus on the heroics of the NHS staff – frontline and otherwise – is what centralises the public within Britain and allows us to unite in support and gratitude. This whole experience is humbling, as it has provided focus for what is really important in life – friendship, love and health.
“The phrase “keep calm and carry on” that was adopted during wartime is still applicable here”
We are experiencing this as a nation, and as everyone is going through the same, or similar situations, it has really pulled us together under one identity. The phrase “keep calm and carry on” that was adopted during wartime is still applicable here; we have faced this predicament with feelings of anxiety and fear, yet we are all doing what we can to continue living our daily lives at home. Therefore, the attribute of having a “stiff upper-lip” still applies to the British community, but this is what unifies us in times of crisis.
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