Did you watch the programme on Captain Sir Tom Moore, shown recently on ITV? What a story! A life in 100 years. Captain Tom’s is a life well lived and he’s living it still.
The story so far: we’re talking a life full of adventure, a go-getting man, a kind person – he gave up a job during hard times because he was not prepared to exploit housewives by persuading them to buy his unnecessary product – a loving husband and father and a man who has persevered throughout his own personal tragedies. He has lived a heroic life. He is a hero, and we applaud him for it.
He’s not the only one we applaud. Remember all the NHS front-liners we stood and clapped at the height of the Covid epidemic? Week after week they laboured and week after week we cheered. And then we expanded our applause for the carers and the key workers who risked their own health to help others. For 10 weeks, we remained in our own insulated little bubbles looking out towards others and striving to remember we were part of a whole, that there was another world out there that we would be returning to very soon. It gave us hope.
And then the clapping stopped. Still on a high, but as it had to before it petered out and left us feeling as though it were a chore, rather than a celebration.
And then what exactly? Exactly. What?
Lockdown eased. We moved into double bubbles and extended households; going to the seaside – or not – following government guidelines – or not – if we could understand them and generally trying to be good citizens. We moved seamlessly into masks and are presently waiting to see what is expected of us next.
Unfortunately, we mere mortals seem to have been forgotten. Our political masters have disappeared into the ether (or, as they may prefer to call it, their summer recess); our royal family are self-isolating and invisible in the glorious UK countryside (or what looks like a fantastic hidey hole in the California hills) and we are where exactly? Confused, I fear, and pretty much where we started. Neither here nor there.
Those who were brave enough to attempt a break out for freedom with a holiday abroad have been caught out as unexpected lockdown quarantine rules return. Crab-like, the naughty escapees rushed to get back before the curfew with some of them arriving back in the UK with only minutes to spare.
Some may consider such holidaymakers a little frivolous for risking a trip abroad, others might applaud their “can do” attitude, believing we still have to make our own minds up how we choose to live, even in uncertain times.
And this is where our need for heroes come in. The media – both traditional and new social – are full of articles about managing uncertainty, making the best of this time or offering insights of wisdom (I try to do it here) in the hope it will help people to keep their sanity while, it seems, politicians and world leaders all around us are losing theirs.
Personally, I experience the current uncertainty and what seems to be an absence of leadership as being left on board a rudderless ship. I’m no sailor, I need help.
We used to be able to turn to religion in times of adversity. Many of our brothers and sisters around the world still do but statistics inform me that, in the UK, the belief in an omnipotent celestial being has waned.
Ironically, as we as a nation celebrate multi-culturalism and diversity, we seem to be moving away from a collective celebration of a life which embraces and includes all humanity. Instead, we pick and choose what matters to us as individuals and “identify” with ever smaller groups that seem to exclude more than they embrace. It is something we have always done; we may appear more sophisticated than our ancestors but, deep down, our emotions are pretty much the same as they always were.
My sense is that each of us needs some kind of spiritual or god-like figure to help us make our way through this crazy, uncertain world. We need exceptional people that we can look up to, aspire to and maybe even become. We need a sense of idealism, community and the feeling that someone is looking out for us and putting society’s collective needs above their own individual desires. We need more heroes.
As singer Bonnie Tyler once pondered: “Where have all the good men gone and where are all the gods? Where’s the street-wise Hercules to fight the rising odds?” I only wish I knew.
Until then, three cheers for Captain Tom.
By: Lulu Sinclair
Top picture: Captain Sir Tom Moore portrait by kind permission of Alexander Chamberlin