By Laura Sullivan, Executive Director of WeMove Europe, March 23th 2020
It was Fred's birthday this weekend. The party had been cancelled so a friend set up a zoom call and we took the celebration online. Most people hadn't done this kind of thing before and the dynamic was hilarious. At first, we were shy, no one talking. Then chaotic, all talking at once. Poor Fred couldn’t get a word in. Eventually the crowd thinned and we got to talking about the state that we are in.
Personally, in Europe, in the world. From a Texan friend, I learned that if people in Belgium and Germany are stockpiling toilet paper, in the US, she's worried that it’s guns and bullets.
The conversation got a little dark. What is about to happen to us? What about people already suffering? What if this is one big opportunity to change things and we miss it? What if things get worse?
I was struck by the pessimism and fear. And yet it was totally normal. Right now, people are so bombarded by panicky headlines that it could not be any other way. And whilst some of that sense of urgency is good - to help us be careful and stop the virus from spreading - too much of it will damage our hope, our courage, and our mental health. I wondered if people like you were having similar conversations at the same time. And how much hope there was.
We need hope on tap right now. So here is some of mine.
Sure, solidarity between EU leaders is pretty low. But solidarity between people across balconies and borders is high. Connection is going up. Pollution down. Fish in rivers up. Plane tickets down. Creativity up. Electricity consumption down.
And sure, there is stockpiling of toilet paper going on in supermarkets. This happens to human brains that are stimulated by competitive signalling, advertising of discounts, queues, the pressure to move fast and get out in 30 minutes.
But on balconies, in doorways, from the street, in calmer environments, people are organising actions and talking to neighbours they never spoke to before.
A round of applause for health workers
What gives me extra hope is this: humans are neither good nor bad per se. We are subject to our environments. And there’s nothing like a good crisis to get us looking for ways to rise to the challenge and help out. We look for opportunities to transcend the bullshit.
At WeMove Europe, we are going to spend these next weeks and months finding ways for us to transcend the bullshit together in Europe.
We started last week with an ask for people across Europe to join the brilliant initiative of Italians on balconies to give some applause to health workers. The result was a total inspiration to me. And it's clear that it's not enough.
More than applause, health workers want recognition for the state that the health sector is in. We want to back them up and make sure that doctors and nurses in Europe are being paid properly, that healthcare is funded and health systems work for people. We want EU leaders to ensure that we are prepared for the next epidemic, but also for health to be treated as a human right and not something to slash when the budget comes around.
We will collect and propose ways to rethink how the economy works, for people and planet. We will not drop the ball on climate. Or rights. Or democracy. We won't put our activism on hold. We have the online tools and collective creativity to make our voices heard and that’s what we’re going to do.
To do this, we rely on your donations, now more than ever. Last month, we made a big decision. WeMove Europe will not in future take any funding from governments or corporations. Instead, we will focus on being funded as much as possible by crowdfunding from individuals like you. Will you join us?