We are all in this together, the mantra of our times, sums up the word ‘solidarity’. Never has the word had so much resonance for so many people in so many countries. The landscape of our world has changed dramatically over recent months and we are all playing a role in our slow shift back to normality. As a society, we’ve never been so cut off from each other and, at the same time, so united against a common enemy – a global pandemic.
Historically, the word solidarity has been used by political parties and trade unions in their campaigns for political change. In our current crisis, solidarity is the sum of small efforts we are all making to fight the spread of disease, to keep ourselves and others safe and alive. We have all practiced solidarity (and continue to do so) to a greater or lesser extent, perhaps without even realising it.
Solidarity is staying in when you’d rather go out, avoiding busy places, hanging a rainbow in your window, helping someone with their shopping, talking to your grandparents through a pane of glass, clapping the NHS on a Thursday night. It’s wearing a face mask on public transport, respecting social distancing rules, being there when someone’s having a hard time emotionally and needs to talk. It’s delivering food parcels, helping a sibling with their homework, saying thank you at the checkout, standing patiently in a queue and washing, washing, washing your hands. It’s writing a poem, a story, a song, a letter to express yourself and shed light on our common experience. It’s giving something up, whatever it is, to help someone, who might not be like you. And ultimately benefitting because it makes you feel good about yourself.
There’s been lots to process recently beyond covid-19. Protests against police violence, a rise in domestic abuse and youth unemployment. We might not be able to do anything on a governmental level about these things or feel comfortable about waving banners on the street but there’s always something we can do to show solidarity. We can educate ourselves by learning about social issues such as homelessness, climate change and inequality. Solidarity is voicing an opinion, taking the knee, it’s being aware of groups and individuals who use times like these to fuel our fears and divide us. Extremists have been at home too, like the rest of us, and they’ve been spreading their messages online.
This challenging time has brought out the best in us – our patience, resilience and empathy. These days solidarity is everywhere. From the grittiest work carried out by our doctors and nurses to our small, everyday acts of kindness. We are far more dependent than our pre-covid lifestyles led us to believe, more effective together than alone. Solidarity is unity, community, support and it is slowly but surely defeating a big, scary disease.