Imagine a better country! No, that is not a passive dream-about-it suggestion. It’s an imperative. As in, while we are spending three weeks largely stuck in our homes, here is an opportunity for all of us to imagine a better country. Starting with you, government!

My wife was saying this the other day – imagine if every business, school, government department used these twenty-one days to seriously brainstorm solutions for the country – Eskom, SAA etc… if everyone went ‘Hey let’s do better!’

And then i saw this tweet from Chester Qha on the Twitterer [where all good tweets hang out, and most of the bad ones!]:

STAY AT HOME [oh, i see you are!]

If you’re like me, you probably feel deep despair when you see pictures of selfish white people sitting outside their homes having braais on opposing street corners [yes, this was a thing!] or individuals out jogging or cycling [arrest them all!] or the one story i read about a lady who went out with a bag of shopping that was simply a decoy so she could walk her dog. There is a lot of selfishness and stupidity out there and it can really make you question whether or not this thing is working.

But when i go outside, for the most part i hear quiet. i know my neighbours are indoors. i know that my friends and family are indoors. The streets are a whole lot quieter and vehicles are more of an occasional interruption than a constant buzz.

Most people – in the suburbs [townships are a whole different story and we need to remember that their situations are a whole lot more precarious and uncomfortable than ours before we even think about judging] – are actually locked down.

We made it through the water crisis

i have heard a lot of people suggesting that after all of this, everyone will just go back to life as normal. And there is a huge degree of truth in that.

BUT at the same time there are a lot of people who will have learned and adapted and transformed the way they do things!

We saw this in Cape Town’s recent water crisis. Huge water restrictions and rules forced us to live differently and after we made it through and water levels became less dire, many people returned to ‘life as normal’ but a WHOLE LOT OF PEOPLE had discovered a new normal, and largely kept with it. Once we learned we could do things differently, we carried on doing them. We chose to be better!

And it will likely be the same with the lockdown. People are discovering new disciplines which will evolve into habits and new ways of connection. Businesses and schools and universities that have been forced to do things virtually will have found new ways to get work done [again, we need to remember the distinction between the wealthy and the poor where some people have it so much easier than others]

The world will never be the same again, because many of us will not let it be. How do we convince as many people as possible during this time of lockdown to gravitate towards more earth and people friendly ways of living? That is the challenge. And each of us needs to be taking that up with our family and our friends and those in our communities.

To The Government

Back to my wife’s comment though. What if government departments during this three weeks of lockdown used some of the time to seriously brainstorm about how they could do things better to both run the country and reduce the gap between the haves and the have nots.

What if by the end of the lockdown, we had public transport figured out? [That one thing, i firmly believe, would revolutionise our country]

What if, at the end of 21 days, we had come up with a comprehensive plan to curb crime and the violence we see around us and to turn prisons into places of rehabilitation and not just punishment?

What if by the end of our stay at home there was a plan in place so that three months from then there would not be a single pit latrine toilet in any one of our schools?

What if the Health department spent this time working out how we get the best medical treatment for everyone who lives in our country?

It would honestly be great if all of the departments used this time to comprehensively dive into their biggest challenges and try to come up with doable solutions. What other “What ifs” could we add to this list?

We have been given a time and an opportunity where the pause button has largely been pushed for us… and it will be the greatest tragedy if we emerge on the other side of this without too much having changed.

So Government we call on you to take this time seriously and use it to come up with some answers beyond just helping us survive the crisis of corona virus. We want to be a country that thrives and anyone who is not involved in immediate disease-related focus should be locked down in brainstorm and conversation and research and invitation to make sure that we come out on the other side with some solutions.

Please make the most of this time that has been given to you.

To Businesses

The same thing applies to you. 

If you have a CEO who is earning a thousand times [or sometimes more] the wages of a low-level employee, what if you took this lockdown time to figure out a more ethical and shared way of doing things.

Because it can be done. Take the story of Dan Price who ran a card payments company in Seattle in the USA. He introduced a $70, 000 minimum salary for all of his 120 staff and personally took a pay cut of a million dollars.

As he said: “People are starving or being laid off or being taken advantage of, so that somebody can have a penthouse at the top of a tower in New York with gold chairs.”

South Africa is the country with the greatest inequality in the world. What if, during lockdown time, the haves got a little more creative [and became a little more human] and moved things around so that the new normal we step into is one which benefits all of the people a lot more equally.

What if during this time of corona virus, businesses figured out ways to do their business in a way that wasted less, reduced their carbon footprint and recycled more?

What if during these lockdown times, businesses took some of the time to figure out ways to look after their staff better in terms of transport, medical, maternity and so on?

What if, in the time given to us, businesses figured out ways that they could partner up with schools or hospitals [two crucial areas that are struggling in South Africa] to help them to improve and overcome some of their challenges. Something that Partners for Possibility is doing amazing work in when it comes to education. This stuff is possible and it’s happening and this is a chance for more companies to get involved.

And so on. What can you as a business do to be and do better?

Obviously a number of businesses will continue with work at this time but there will be many who have some time to get the right people connecting and strategising and figuring out some long term solutions so that we can all return to a better world.

What about me?

i imagine there will be a lot of people who emerge on the other side of this having binge-watched 50 series on Netflix, drunk all the wine and eaten all the snacks. But if that is the extent of what you achieve during this time of lockdown you will have missed out.

i wrote a blog piece early on [when we were still social distancing] with five different things you can do during this time to help keep you busy which included keeping connected to the elderly and immuno-compromised through phone calls and messages and engaging in poetry or story or song writing, learning a new skill and trying to do something at home you’ve been putting off for the longest time. Now’s your chance!

But i also shared this piece about disciplines you might want to introduce into your life at this time when things are a little quieter or less frenetic. Such as reading or exercise or prayer or meditation.

As well as two blog pieces with multiple ways you can keep your kids busy creatively during this time.

As bad as corona virus and the lockdown is [and it is bad], be proactive ad intentional and don’t emerge on the other side of this having missed out on the opportunities that presented themelves. Many online courses are being offered for reduced rates or for free. You Tube has a million videos teaching you how to do a practical skill or cook something you haven’t or learn a language you have always been wanting to.

When the new normal arrives – and life will NEVER be quite the same again – do what you can now so that you are a better person because of it. And take people with you. Don’t let your friends or family be the ones who only sit and watch series during this time [series watching is not bad in and of itself but try and find variety!]

This literally is an opportunity for us to change the world. Our world and the world around us. Let us not miss out on that and let’s really make the most of the lockdown. Please SHARE this post so that we can grab the attention of government and big business and our neighbours and be part of creating a better world together!

chinese proverb tree