Margaret Thatcher was wrong; ‘society’ exists and is stronger than ever – Zesha Saleem

FOR me, the pandemic has seemingly proved, if nothing else, that Margaret Thatcher was wrong – there is such a thing as society. 
Zesha SaleemZesha Saleem
Zesha Saleem

After seeing the local and regional response to Covid-19, my faith in the strong community spirit that is the renown of the North has been restored.

Of course, tight-knit northern communities are well known for their generosity and their passion to help others.

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Devastating events, such as the Yorkshire floods and the Manchester Arena attack, confirm the importance of a strong community spirit – the same spirit which has now helped to carry many disadvantaged people through the lockdown.

Covid-19 and food bank volunteers have rekindled community spirit, writes Zesha Saleem.Covid-19 and food bank volunteers have rekindled community spirit, writes Zesha Saleem.
Covid-19 and food bank volunteers have rekindled community spirit, writes Zesha Saleem.

It’s obvious that having a strong and dynamic community is a crucial cornerstone of the society we now live in. 

It is also important to understand how this unpredictable pandemic distorted the lives of millions overnight.

With peoples’ lives changing dramatically, from both an economic and health perspective, the response reinforces the significance of our communities, and why we should be carrying the strong community spirit into the post-pandemic era.

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Across the UK, initiatives to support those isolating without any help were set up by local councils and community organisations.

Margaret Thatcher once intimated that there was no such thing as society.Margaret Thatcher once intimated that there was no such thing as society.
Margaret Thatcher once intimated that there was no such thing as society.

For many people, these schemes were their only source of assistance during these testing times, whether that was help with the shopping or just having a chat with a volunteer.

Support from the local community, through the collaborative efforts of local councils and charity organisations were a lifeline for the most vulnerable of our society. When they couldn’t step out, our community stepped in.

However, a lot of help for both key workers and those isolating was organised by the local neighbours, friends and family members. Facebook groups were created with the intention to virtually bring the locals together.

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Soon, donations of home-made PPE, food and other essentials were being put together for key workers and those affected by Covid-19.

Food bank volunteers during the Covid-19 crisis.Food bank volunteers during the Covid-19 crisis.
Food bank volunteers during the Covid-19 crisis.

Many people were selflessly going out of their way to look after their counterparts, even if they didn’t know them.

Local schools turned into food banks to provide meals to the most deprived of their pupils. People instinctively went the extra mile to support those whose vulnerability has been amplified by a global crisis.

During the lockdown, we saw our local community at its very best – we saw the sheer importance of having a society where we care for each other. It’s not just me who believes in the significance of the ‘community spirit’– a lot of the public think it too.

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In a survey conducted by the Office of National Statistics (ONS), more than half the public said that they had a feeling of affiliation to their community, and more than two-thirds said they thought people “are doing more to help others since the coronavirus outbreak”.

Many said that they could count on community support.

As the lockdown eases, we will be adjusting to the ‘new normal’. A life complete with face masks, social distancing and queues. There is no 
doubt that many of us can’t wait for our normal lives to come back.

There is no doubt that the recent weeks have shown us the very best and the very worst of the world we live in, 
and it is time to learn those lessons
and carry them into the post-pandemic era.

It is naïve of us to think that our pre-pandemic lives were perfectly normal. It is naïve of us to think that living in a society where social cohesion was in decline was perfectly normal.

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As we move into the next phase of the pandemic, we should be carrying the great community spirit shown by society with us.

A life where helping both friends and strangers should be the ‘new normal.’ We shouldn’t allow the once bustling Facebook groups now quietly dwindle and disappear, nor should we have food banks continuously struggle to feed those living in poverty.

Our new normal should be one where we continuously come together as a community in times of both happiness and difficulty – the Covid-19 pandemic has truly restored the importance of the ‘community spirit’.

Zesha Saleem is a student and writer. She has written pieces for YouthPoliticsUK.

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