It is most certainly appropriate to say that Term 1, 2020 has been like no other. The year commenced as we had expected it to at John Septimus Roe Anglican Community School (JSRACS); with staff and students returning to the new year keen to launch ambitious goals and with a strong desire to contribute to the development of self and community. This desire was reflected in our community’s strong focus to support our affiliated Anglican Schools affected by the horrific fires that devastated our country. With this devastation occurring while all students were enjoying their annual Christmas holiday break, it seemed a natural focus to support other school communities affected by the tragedy.
Our 2020 student leaders planned to raise funds to support identified schools; however, these plans sadly, never had the opportunity to materialise because of the rapidly developing and dangerous spread of the corona virus. As we all now know, the virus originated in the Wuhan District of the Hubei Province in China, spreading rapidly across the globe creating a pandemic.
The world is still responding to the immediate effects of the pandemic and considering how to manage its long-term consequences, especially those of an economic nature. Outside of the Great Depression, there has never been such a sudden and savage shock to our economic certainty in such a short period of time. A vaccine is yet to be developed; however, it seems, as the middle of May approaches, that the management of the virus has been highly effective in Australia and within our State. The ‘flattening of the curve’ and Western Australia’s run of successive days of zero infections have contributed to enabling the removal of our most severe social restrictions as we now plan for managing the virus and encouraging economic recovery.
A friend of mine, Mr Julian Dowse, who is the former Principal of Peter Moyes Anglican Community School, recently shared his thoughts with me about the current circumstance the World finds itself in with respect to the coronavirus. His thoughts were eloquently articulated through an article he entitled ‘Silver Linings’. Julian’s thoughts provided me with a positive view of the tangential effects of the coronavirus pandemic, at a time when the pressure to make sensible and timely decisions for our school community was starting to feel somewhat overwhelming for me.
Excerpts from Silver Linings, as written by Mr Julian Dowse
It’s an ill virus that spreads no good!
When Princess Diana’s death convulsed much of the world in 1997, I can well remember the near wall of flowers that surrounded Buckingham Palace having been left by visiting mourners. By the day of her funeral, there were so many floral tributes that the collective perfume of the bouquets filled the London air. Many of London’s main roads were closed for her funeral procession. It was observed by many that it took the death of Diana to imagine what a pre-industrial London was like: fragrant and still, except for the noises of people talking and carriages moving through its stately streets.
The social, economic and, inevitably, political convulsions, caused by the coronavirus are unprecedented. Yet, maybe, like 1997, we have to look for silver linings amidst the shutdowns, lockouts, panic buying, cancellations and quarantines. Probably more than ever.
The world’s environment may well have a reprieve from the worst of our excesses. During China’s recent economic shutdown there was a marked change in the appearance of Beijing’s sky. May a thousand sunbeams bloom! There will be fewer emissions from aircraft as the world is forced to return to an almost pre-industrial state. The water in Venice’s canals are suddenly translucent and fish can be seen. Maybe clipper ships will become back in vogue? As industries inevitably scale back production for the foreseeable future, there will be fewer noxious emissions around the world.
The confidence to ask one’s neighbour for a “cup of sugar” may be replaced by a request “for sheets of toilet tissue.” More importantly, people will have to time to consider what matters truly to them as they construct new patterns of life and regimens. We might not be able to smell the roses as autumn looms, but there is much around us to admire and notice.
Walking to work today, the flocks of corellas seemed larger and noisier. They have reclaimed their ascendancy over the noises of a diminishing number of cars. The trees lining the streets seemed more vibrant and imposing. Sadly, the effects of the virus have led to selfish acts of breathtaking desperation. The ‘toilet roll wars’ and panic buying in supermarkets will be a galling memory of this experience. Thankfully, the counter-revolution is slowly coming. Major supermarkets have allocated dedicated shopping hours to assist the elderly. As the abnormal becomes the temporary normal, people will learn to adjust, and maybe a greater number of us will recognise the myopia of a selfish, singular life.
So, for more than forty nights and forty days, the Western world will endure a compulsory period of self-denial. Less will have to be more. There could be many benefits. People may have to truly learn who their neighbours are, and possibly even learn to ‘love’ them. The Italians, even though stricken by the worst effects of the virus, have begun the process by singing to each other from the balconies of the apartments to which they are confined. A virulent commitment to recognise and act on what ennobles us, may well, in the long term, be the greatest unintended benefit of COVID-19. Acts of the soul will be as important as much as ablutions with sanitisers to see us through.
As Julian’s article so clearly articulates; the good that has come and will continue to be further generated from this wretched virus, reminds us that every cloud has its silver linings. That good may propagate from adversity is a notion that we all hold on to when we find ourselves in challenging and difficult situations.
2020 will always be remembered for the onset of the coronavirus and its negative impact on the world; however, just as there will be ‘silver linings’ across the globe, there will indeed be ‘silver linings’ for the JSRACS community. What began as a time that was seen by many as a time of overwhelming adversity may well come to be seen as a time when our School became stronger, with our mutual reliance and concern for each other bolstering our sense of community.