Notes on Unity

I must confess, I am a bit of a science fiction fan, albeit one not that well versed in the lore behind a lot of it. However, not one that is well versed in the lore behind them. One question that always springs to mind, be it while watching Star Wars, Star Trek or Starship Troopers, is how are all these future worlds united? What caused this unity? Was it an all consuming war with one eventual winner? Was it more peacefully achieved through diplomacy (one would hope)? Or, maybe this unity was created via a catastrophe, such as, let’s say, a pandemic?

Since the beginning of the outbreak touching tales of unity have come from all corners of the globe, from street exercise classes, balcony singing across Italy, to support being thrown given to medical workers. Communities are uniting. 

Sadly, the words ‘unity’ or ‘united’, are not words  one would associate with the global response. If anything, the opposite is true, with individual nations and states coordinating their own responses. Slowly, the bodies we hoped would provide a united response are actually just moving to coordinate. However, by and large, their responses have been considered just that: slow. Furthermore, many have lost faith in them due to this. So, if these future worlds were to be united by a pandemic, the question would be: who was responsible for the unity?

WHO. are you? 

The World Health Organisation was founded in 1948 in order to ‘coordinate health affairs within the United Nations system.’ Their leading success story remains the eradication of smallpox, which was declared eradicated in 1979. Later success was found with the containment of the pandemic SARS. This was achieved by issuing advice against travelling. They were the first Organisation to have stepped in, in such a way, as this was an advice that was normally left to member states to decide themselves.

One would hope that, in a pandemic of this scale, the world would fall behind the WHO. However, the opposite seems to be true. The WHO’s leaders are said to be ‘very frustrated’ by the fact that some members seem to ignore their warnings (from the link above.) This is not the article  to get into the politics and discuss the reasons behind this.  However, to put it simply, the reason is leadership.     


We are a long way away from knowing what the correct response to this virus is. In fact, we will most probably not know, until this is officially over. Some, for example, criticized Sweden’s response, then praised it and then went back to criticizing it again. 

What is ardently clear, is the role our leaders have played. Right or wrong, the example they have set has largely been followed. Those who have taken in account the dangers of the virus, have populations who have followed suit. Those who have ‘sat on the fence’ have populations that have erred, unsure which side of the fence to fall on, largely jumping between sides, as it suits them.

There has been unity in the messages being sent out to the people.. Stay home, stay safe, protect the hospitals -we are all in this together. Even if we are not all in the same situation some of us are more fortunate than others and the understanding that we are united in our vulnerability is there. Regardless of where this message has come from, communities have shown unity. Most leaders have asked for unity within the population, and yet, within the community of leaders, that has not been the case.

Do as I say not as I do…

…so the teacher saying goes. We’ve been asked to follow peoples lead, their example. However, when it comes to unity the example we have been given is poor. Currently there is a depressing rise of nationalism, which lies on the other end of the global unity spectrum. If we are to dream of a world(s) united, just as science fiction portrays, then it would seem that this idea must be community driven. 

Communities around the world have opened their arms. We all know the stories of people finally speaking to their neighbours, streets of strangers coming together to help each other.. Existing communities, separated by the virus but surviving online and somehow stronger. If we dare to dream of an Utopian world,  then we need our leaders to start doing as we do, and not as they do.

Picture credits: John Hain, Pixabay.

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