The increased role of government has been the main focus during the pandemic. And for good reason.
You don’t have to believe that big government is the solution to every problem to understand that it can at times be a solution to at least some. This crisis was one of them.
Only government could impose the restrictions that were needed for the health of the nation, and only government could make the large financial resources available to ameliorate the worst impacts of such restrictions. In Australia government is generally agreed to have done a good job, despite some clumsy missteps and more recent signs of confusion and impotence over the issue of large protests. The question for government now is how to pull back well.
However our society is much more than government, or business for that matter. It is more than individual citizens as well.
There is another realm of varied activities and connections which are commonly called, following Edmund Burke “the little platoons” — and this has realm has been (literally) zooming along.
Whether or not it was exactly what Burke had in mind, today the term refers to those many various small voluntarily associations, local communities, and family links that proliferate in any healthy society.
Where were they in the COVID-19 pandemic? Everywhere it turns out.
Although hard data is hard to come by, anecdotal evidence suggests that despite being unable to meet physically, religious and community groups have all managed to keep connecting and doing their thing.
Platoons as diverse as community radio stations, sailing clubs, car clubs, amateur sports, bridge groups, Pilates classes, yoga, book clubs, community museums, choirs, drama societies, athletic clubs, art classes, historical societies, even dance classes — as well as families and friends — have plunged into the word of video conferencing software, perhaps even more than the corporate world.
It is important not to overlook this multitude of zooming little platoons. They remind us of the power of human connection and that even in a time of (temporary) big government focus, there must always be space for that individual liberty that is so essential to human flourishing.