Voluntary Lockdown

An exploding clock signifying the old model we need to transition away from

As lots of you already know, the wheels have been turning since the original “Don’t Go Back” piece and since the “Citizen’s Charter” post, and it’s time to say more about transition. I now know for sure that this is slap bang in the middle of hundreds of thousands of people’s feelings about lockdown, and whilst it’s amazing to see great thinkers and writers all using their voices to say some version of “we mustn’t go back to the way we were living before”, I’ve been waiting and waiting for politicians, governments, and business leaders to acknowledge this publicly and make some transition statements and it’s not happened yet.

What they’re [not] saying about transition…

Anything in the mainstream media seems to focus the “post-lockdown” conversation on how to transition “back” to a “normal life” in a safe way. The focus – and up to a point it’s the understandable focus – is on getting the timing and phasing right so as to avoid a second massive wave of infections. But “official communicators” seem either oblivious to, or else silent about, the fact that a massive proportion of citizens worldwide are not just concerned about staying safe from COVID, but about staying safe from an old way of living that was predicated on overwork, underpay, excessive travel, and a chronic lack of sleep, exercise, and play. An old way of living, in short, predicated on exhaustion.

The conversation, which I’m now almost bored of, so regular has it been on Zooms and in Whatsapps and Facebook posts and tweets, follows a predictable report of realisations along the lines of:

A vehicle fuel guage showing empty, to illustrate the old way of being we want to transition away from

It turns out I was exhausted;

It turns out I can’t stand having to get up that early, ram myself into overfull public transport and fight with my elbows out, hating everyone around me, to go and sit at a desk for way too long with a bunch of other deeply exhausted people;

It turns out that when I don’t have to do that, I still get my work done, with a clearer head;

It turns out that when I don’t have to do that, I get some time back, and I get some energy back. To – you know – sleep better. Exercise. Actually ENJOY my family. PLAY with them. I have time and energy to prepare better food. I’ve discovered paths and routes and even hillsides and fields and beaches and riversides. I’ve had sun on my skin and good air in my lungs. And I can’t believe it, but I’ve still got energy left in the evenings and weekends to do stuff that’s creative. Or political;

Having the energy to fight for humane change…

And that’s a really important thing to notice. To notice how, amongst all the other ways of keeping a population toothless and docile, exhaustion is particularly effective.

A workers unite style logo with the word "STRENGTH" indicating that we're ready to transition towards something collectively inspired

Now that I’m working from home, balancing work with life admin; now that I’m healthier for the extra hour of sleep, all the exercise, all the fresh – FRESH – air; now that my lungs aren’t so polluted and I’ve been able to eat homemade food… I’ve got time and energy to fight to transition to a healthier way of living not just for myself but for other people too. To fight for what is so far from luxury. I was so exhausted from fighting with myself to get up and get on a train there was no fight left in me for activism. Or love;

Now I’ve got time and energy to stand up for, celebrate and support not just my loved ones but my neighbours and even people who I’ve never met but owe my health and even my life to.

I don’t know who “They” are, but They stole my time and my energy and my money and I had to use what I had in ways that were narrow, selfish and survivalist. And I’m a relatively well off, well educated, middle-class, middle-aged woman without kids living in a two-income household. I AM The Entitled, and yet even I wasn’t even close to getting what we should ALL be entitled to.

Doesn’t this come down to human rights??

Why aren’t “They” stating now, clearly and repeatedly – “We’re going to transition by building on what we’ve discovered about being a healthy society. Those of you who can work from home, stay there. Business owners, make transition plans now to sustain this. Everyone, support your local economies. Use and create new businesses where you live. Stay on your feet, off your backsides, out of your cars, and away from the airport. Stay in your homes, in your neighbourhoods. Stay connected with the people around you.”

Transforming socio-economic divides…

The main illustration from Doughnut Economics, an economic model for transitioning to a more humane and inclusive social economy

And of course there’s more. Everything above is squarely within the confines of, as I said, Middle Class Entitlement. Of course there are other critical transition conversations needed: universal living wages; affordable housing with enough actual space for a family, with access to nature, leisure, amenities, and fresh food. Proper funding for what we’ve just had to depend on for our very survival. Diversity in supply chains with some swing back towards localisation. Clean air and freely flowing roads. Business strategies where profitability is balanced against sustainability, including for its employees. Where morality and conscience aren’t dirty or irrelevant words.

Please join us for a Normality Shift…

And so… A growing collection of people is working to launch a global, virtual, rolling working group using Open Space Technology where we can turn realisations into transition plans, actions and new realities. And we’re going to need you. Whether you’re a schoolchild, a grandfather, a social economist, a builder, someone with a long-term illness dependent on social funding and care, self-employed, a business leader, or a fruit picker.

If you want to use some of your precious time and energy to help work for a more sustainable lifestyle for you, your neighbourhood, your company, your constituency… use the form below to add your name to the Voluntary Lockdown: A Citizens’ Charter mailing list and as soon as the platform is built and the global working group is ready to be launched, you’ll be invited.

And in the meantime, please consider sharing this post with anyone who you think will or should be interested in how we transition, including local business owners, councillors, and co-workers. We’re looking forward to seeing you all very soon.

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