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Be careful out there

The fall of the Berlin Wall, in 1989, and the 9/11 attacks, were huge international events, but they did not leave a third of the world in lockdown. The Covid-19 pandemic is having enormous ramifications on everything we do. Different forces are finding themselves in opposition. 

Continued capitalism seems to be a threat to our continued health, and is currently fighting for survival, with its hands behind its back.

In any crisis there are going to be winners and losers and the companies who get on with  ‘crisis-capitalism’ best might be alright.

Some companies have irredeemably blotted their copybooks for flying in the face of public mood. Wetherspoons, Sports Direct, Virgin and Topshop are four that customers have been urged to boycot. Richard Branson, for some reason, still has enough residual goodwill to ride it out; Wetherspoons sell cheap booze, so they’ll be fine. Other companies will not be forgiven for their chiselling attitude to customers, currently living in a climate of controlled panic.

Controlled for now. Although it seems forever, in the UK, we have only been living one step below marshall law for a week. If this lasts for months, or more sanctions are brought to bear, all bets on are off.

A smart company can turn this health crisis into a chance to serve; some are acting well, but there are so many opportunities to do better. An example: most of us are looking for some entertainment and escapism, so why don’t the likes of Netflix offer three months’ free viewing for everyone? The goodwill generated would ensure future survival. Sky showed its usual caring side by increasing its monthly subscription by 11.7%, just as all live sport was taken off the menu.

The same goes for newspapers, who are increasingly hiding their ‘premium’ content behind paywalls; let us in for a few months and earn our loyalty.

Loyalty is key to business and is the one thing the BBC has in abundance. 

Although currently prone to over-catastrophizing, (the media loves a crisis), I am sure the BBC will settle back into its usually assured role as the only information outlet we inherently trust and will rebuff the government’s threats to dismantle it. Boris Johnson managed to catch the virus from the medical experts he was using to shield him, and must surely admit that it is time to honour his old Brexit pledge of an extra £350 million a month for the NHS.

It’s not just business and governments on trial, it’s everything and everyone.

Words matter, and the Guardian’s Marina Hynde, looked at sport’s reaction to the current situation, in a brilliantly-titled article; ‘Big Sport struggles to pivot to its new position of immense irrelevance’. 

Watching the IOC prevaricating over the cancellation of the Olympics was unedifying, but similar accusations of self-importance can be levelled at almost all professional sporting bodies; when you don’t know what is going on, it is probably best to shut up for a bit. A luxury not afforded politicians. 

We are all hostages to fortune. We all have to be careful; what you think and say one day, may, quite literally, be unthinkable and unsayable the next.

What goes for sport and business, goes for celebrity; where they lead, we follow. Denied their usual oxygen of publicity, celebrities have had to make themselves relevant to the crisis, nearly always with calamitous results. 

The first I saw of this recent celebrity outbreak, was a bunch of actors singing ‘Imagine’, in a video that was universally greeted with; ‘Who are they?’ They were followed by Madonna, in a rose-strewn bath, Arnie feeding some Shetland ponies, in his kitchen, and a plethora of lesser celebs announcing their self-isolation and/or virus positive status.

I don’t care how you are keeping fit or creative at home. I also hate headlines like; ‘The Beckhams lead the nation in applauding the NHS.’ No they fucking didn’t (they just joined in, like eveyone else) – the Daily Mail. Celebrities should be careful of ‘tin ear syndrome’. Telling people you have coronavirus means you have had a test, which is currently denied to everyone else, but above all, NHS staff, the nation’s new darlings.

It affects ‘normal’ people too. Use social media to invite people round for a barbecue and you’ll be reported to the police for breaking the lockdown laws. Today’s (29th Mar) Observer headline reads: ‘Johnson warns UK: tougher lockdown may be necessary’. 

I never thought I would see ‘liberals’ (in the media and online) so willing to bow down completely to these draconian measures. A month ago they would have protested against them, if they had been imposed on an unknown cartoonist in North Korea.

Strange days indeed; here are my coronavirus winners and losers, so far.

Doing well:

The NHS

The BBC

Experts

Supermarket workers

Post workers and bin men

Random acts of kindness

Gardening

 

Not so good:

Politicians

Virgin

Celebrity advice

Sport

Civil liberties

Fun

Daily Mail

BBQs

 

Jury’s out:

Amazon

Us

 

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