07 April 2020, The Tablet

The last must become the first

Covid-19 and afterwards


Solidarity has become the principle weapon humanity is using against the coronavirus pandemic. It expresses the sentiment, “Unless we all stand together we are doomed.” The word already has a history as an instrument of radical reform. Solidarnosc – “solidarity” in Polish – was the slogan that defeated Marxism-Leninism. It was the name chosen in 1980 for the trade union that organised workers in the Gdansk shipyard, and began the process that ended with the fall of the Berlin Wall.

In the middle of a pandemic that has made the world face its biggest challenge since the Second World War, solidarity’s time has come again. The word describes a social instinct that expresses the growing need for a unifying response to the pandemic. No respecter of class or nation, the virus has forced the entire human race to pay attention to what it has in common. And to a new respect for those who, despite risks to themselves, are working to alleviate the threat, to treat those who have become seriously ill, and to keep the basic wheels of civilisation turning over.

Every human being on the planet is threatened equally, without distinction. Humanity’s inner resources have been mobilised to care for the sufferers, and across the nations there has been a spontaneous welling up of a sense of unity and common purpose.

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