Now is not the time to close ourselves off from each other

There is only one true ‘whole’ and that is everyone and everything

My seven year old has been learning about ‘whole’ and ‘parts’ this week in maths as part of a series of lessons on fractions. 

‘If Europe is the whole, then the United Kingdom is part of the whole.’

And then:

‘If the United Kingdom is the whole, then Sheffield is part of the whole.’

We then explored whole journeys, and parts of a journey. And various other variations of whole and part.

Anyway, my goal isn’t to describe in full my daughter’s maths lessons!

Seeing these lessons though, coupled with an article in The Economist on COVID-19’s impact on globalisation, got me thinking about humanity, the world, and how we live together. You know, the small stuff.

At the best of times, we humans have a tendency to shrink our ‘whole’. We think about ourselves; people who are just like us. We look out for number one. That might be our family. Our community. Our church. Our country. Our race. Our class. But, inevitably, we quickly reach the point of excluding others.

We’ve been seeing this trend in recent years, best personified by Donald Trump’s ‘America First’. It’s easy to be deceived by this. It can sound noble at first: ‘Look how Trump’s standing up for us‘. 

But the only true ‘us’ is all of us. We are all connected. In short, ‘America First’ and every parallel movement in other countries around the world, is a very dangerous doctrine.

Standing up for a smaller ‘us’ is always the easier option. 

The harder, but far better way forward is to figure out ways to make things work for all of us.

That’s my concern with the impact of COVID-19. It’s exacerbating our worst instincts for self-preservation. We are dividing rather than uniting. We are shrinking the whole.

And the problem with this goes far beyond economics. It delves right in the the shape of every single human heart.

When we start closing ourselves off from others, we increase our sense of us and them. We become people whose nature shifts to exclusion rather than inclusion. And a healthy life is always an inclusive one. It finds ways to increase the whole, not shrink it.

That’s why we need to be alert at this time. Even if our governments are closing our borders, focussing on self-preservation, and becoming more individualistic, we have to avoid allowing that to infect our hearts.

Humankind is one. There is only one true ‘whole’ and that is everyone and everything. And every other, smaller ‘whole’ is a lesser whole. 

Even on a more local level, as children are all out of school, inevitably, it’s the disadvantaged who are worst affected. And it’s easy – understandable even – to worry only about our own kids. But just as this virus is something that’s affected us all, together, so too must our response work for us all. We have to climb out and move forward as one, leaving no one behind. 

In the short term, it’s easy to convince ourselves that focussing on ourselves is the best course of action. But for humankind to thrive, we have to thrive together. As one. As one, all-encompassing whole.

In other words, individually, and nationalistically, now is not the time to go it alone. We need to stay together.