LIFE after the pandemic should not return to the “normal” that existed before it struck, the Bishop of Truro, the Rt Revd Philip Mounstephen, has said.
He has written a chapter in a new report, A Fair and Just Future for Cornwall, published by Cornwall Independent Poverty Forum, which draws together the views of 21 representatives of the business, faith, voluntary, and community sectors. It will be presented to the county’s local-authority leaders and MPs.
“I suggest that we must ditch any temptation to believe that the past we came out of, into the Covid-19 crisis, was somehow ‘normal’,” Bishop Mounstephen writes. “I don’t think it was ‘normal’ at all. It was not ‘normal’ that we should have been living on this earth in a way that was increasingly unsustainable, with global warming becoming a growing reality and threat to human flourishing. . .
“Nor was it normal that we were living with such dramatic and growing inequalities of wealth in our society. That too is inimical to human flourishing and harmonious communities. And we should not accept as normal the fact that, relative to the rest of the UK, Cornwall itself was increasingly becoming poorer.”
Bishop Mounstephen expresses hope that the pandemic is teaching people “to value things differently”.
“In particular we have learned to give new value and dignity to some of the people who are least well rewarded financially in our society.
“Of course that includes those working in the NHS, but it also embraces those working in care homes; delivery drivers and postmen and women; those stacking shelves in supermarkets and many others too: people who do not earn a great deal, but who have continued to care for us and to keep some of the basic mechanisms of society functioning — at some risk to themselves in the process.”
It is ironic, he says, that, “as we have taken shelter at home, cowed by a tiny virus, the natural world has blossomed into life all around us. It feels like a significant re-balancing has been going on.”
He continues: “This crisis has forced change on us in a way that few things, if any, will do in our lifetimes. It’s our responsibility to respond to and manage that change in a way that really does benefit ‘One and all’ — and the natural world around us too.”
In the report’s introduction, the Project Officer of the Cornwall Independent Forum, Gavin Barker, writes that the report intends “to trigger a wider public conversation in which everyone feels they have a voice and a part to play”.
He continues: “We are at a turning point. The decisions we make now will determine the direction we take and what kind of future we have here in Cornwall as well as for the whole country. It is therefore vital that the voice of the voluntary and community sector as well as the business community, is heard both at Cornwall Council and at Westminster.”