Love Your Neighbour and Stuff
This week we took a trip which we knew involved travelling on a stretch of motorway being targeted by climate protesters Extinction Rebellion / Just Stop Oil. They did indeed stop traffic for a couple of hours on that motorway that day. We avoided the hold-up by taking a longer route on country roads. It wasn’t clear from the satnav how much time we saved ourselves but at least we didn’t sit still or crawl along for hours. Basically we approve of what the protesters are doing, admire their courage and initiative, applaud their attempts to safeguard the planet for our children and grandchildren. Just not please on the day we want to use that road!
The same day came news that the Royal College of Nursing union had voted for strike action for the first time in its 106-year history. Like millions of other Brits, we stood outside our house every Thursday night to support the NHS when the pandemic was at its height. Nurses do skilled, underpaid and sometimes unpleasant work. Since the birth of our youngest grandson in March, we have more cause than most to be thankful to doctors and nurses who have regularly been responsible for keeping him alive as his little life shuttles still between home and hospital. If the strike goes ahead it is likely to reduce temporarily the capacity of hospitals in the UK by 50% or more. We believe that nurses deserve a larger pay rise than the one currently on offer – but please don’t strike at a time when our grandson needs more and ongoing care.
The John Lewis Christmas TV ad was unveiled this week. In 90 seconds, it tells the story of a middle-aged man who suffers many bumps and bruises as he takes up a new hobby – skateboarding. Eventually, we see a young girl standing at his front door – skateboard under her arm. He and his wife are to become her foster carers.
Various supermarkets and stores have recognized that it is inappropriate to do the usual advertising of luxury gifts and expensive foods in the middle of a recession and an energy crisis when many families will go short. So they have revised their marketing strategies. The John Lewis ad so far has received a mixed reaction. There is praise for its social awareness but some people just want to keep their ‘merrie christmas’ fantasies unchallenged by a recognition that not everyone can look forward to similar delights.
In all three cases we see the tension between private satisfactions and social well-being. The tension is familiar and endless. Whether we like it or not our lives are inextricably linked with countless others. It can seem overwhelming at times and make us want to retreat. There is an ongoing redefinition of who is our neighbour. There is no option but to embrace it whenever we can…without making ourselves unbearably miserable. It’s not straightforward.
Photo: Essex Police