How to end a lockdown, together


This untidy end to lockdown has caught me.

I’m upset about a lost opportunity for an actual ending, a ritual. Endings matter.

It seems like events got a bit out of the hands of our government here in the UK, and the opportunity — at a nation-wide scale — for us to feel something together was lost.

The “we’re all in this together” frayed into “us and them” over lockdown breaks and the whole lockdown then started to decay as an idea that people could get behind. Governing isn’t easy, I’m sure, but I think this loss of an ethical leadership on the rules allowed the lockdown to fray at the edges without the chance for any sort of useful ending.

Endings matter. Being in sync with others matter. And holding the current situation matters.

Imagine this had happened: we’re getting to the point where lockdown is relaxed. A special government briefing is held to announce relaxing lockdown conditions according to the new threat number. At that briefing, whoever is presenting for the government speaks carefully with gratitude to all of us about how well we’ve handled lockdown.

This spokesperson proceeds:

“Here in government, along with our experts, we’ve had to make minute-to-minute decisions as this virus arrived and as we went into lockdown. Looking back, we got some things wrong. We did our best. Together, we’ve got this to a good place for now.”

“We need to keep working together .. so here’s how we go on from this. Remember that these nine weeks have been hard, harder on others than ourselves, and we don’t want to go back there and lose more lives. By working together we’ll keep lowering that curve.”

“The next time you see somebody out and about, keeping their distance, give them a smile, acknowledge them. Know that we lowered this curve and saved lives together.”

That would do it. We’ve marked the moment, and made a sign, an action, that we can use in remembrance of working together.

This would leave us all with something shared as we move forward and help to leave us with a grateful narrative for the past. The government didn’t do it this way, but you can do it yourself, with friends and family:

  • Tell the story of your lockdown, your frustrations and gratitude, your fear, your sorrow, your loss, your joy.
  • Tell those stories to each other.
  • Mark the change to being less locked down — with others.
  • Move forward together. Use your smile to thank others.