Clapping for the NHS – Liquidarity, not Solidarity?

It’s quite a nice feeling heading outside at 20.00 every Thursday and banging on a saucepan for 5 minutes to show support for the NHS.

And I’ve even had the chance to chat with some neighbours who I never even talked to before the lockdown, despite having live where I’m living for almost two years.

Thinking sociologically about the weekly ‘national clap for the NHS’, it’s tempting to think of it as an example of a practice which reinforces social integration: a lot of people coming together to say ‘thank you’ to ‘front line workers’ in unison, at both the local and national level.

You certainly get this feeling if you watch the national clap on Television: there’s a five minute slot on Thursdays devoted to it, where certain streets are focused on, and there is a certain feeling of ‘belonging’ to the local and national during the event, I can’t deny it.

Solidarity, but not as we know it?

HOWEVER, I can’t quite bring myself to think of this as an example of us acting in solidarity because of the extremely passive, almost impotent nature of the event.

A I understand it solidarity defines ‘working towards a shared goal’ in the sense of building a better society, but I don’t think that describes what we’re celebrating when we clap for front-line workers.

Those Front Line Workers aren’t really working to build a better society, they’re just trying to prevent a melt down, they’re trying to prevent people from dying and from the NHS being overwhelmed, and just to ‘keep essential services ticking over’.

For the majority of us, our role in this crisis is to ‘stay home and protect the NHS’. We have no clarity over when this crisis is going to end, no certainty over how we’re going to come of Lockdown, and no agreement over what the ‘best way forwards’ is through summer and autumn.

In short, there’s nothing positive and long term for us to unite around, only the short-term agreement around saving lives and staying in.

Also, there is no discussion of what comes next – this is blanked in the media, so we have this looming uncertainty.

Liquidarity, my new concept!

I want to call the national clap for the NHS ‘liquidarity’ after Bauman’s concept of Liquid Modernity. Yes, we are coming together, but it’s as if this national clap is the ONLY sense of national routine we have left, there is nothing else, no clarity ATM about the way out.

Liquidarity = a shared expressive act in a response to shared fear and uncertainty, where there is no clear underlying set of principles or clear long term goal which unites people.

NB that’s very much a first thoughts definition, just working it through.

I’m sure once we start hear proposals for a staged way out of Lockdown and the social changes that are going to come in to deal with a post-corona age, we’ll be back to the same old tensions and divisions again.

It’s all very well and good clapping for the NHS, but if these workers really are facing higher levels of risk, maybe a pay rise is in order? I wonder how many people would put their tax money where their hands are for one minute every Thursday? And what happens if Brexit is delayed for years because of Corona fall-out, are Brexiteers just going to suck that up through the early 2020s?

In the meantime, let’s enjoy the national clap, it’s a nice enough distraction from all the uncertainty, and I’m certainly not going to argue that front line workers don’t deserve some recognition.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.