Half a Hexagon
shaping simple ideas in a complex world
I do like a good bit of symmetry and 21/02/21 is not bad. Hello, Sunday.
Well, I've had my vaccine, because for family reasons I've got some caring to do and I feel very lucky and very in awe of the whole operation. Whatever we think about 'the handling' of the pandemic - all of us armchairs politicians - the UK vaccine programme is a triumph.
It is definitely the case that there are a few green shoots of optimism now - not just out on the leaves either.
You can sense a rustling of ideas, of thinking which is starting to go beyond the immediate closed in, locked down world.
The green shoots even mean we can contemplate gathering in person. I had my first Summer Party invitation (via 'Paperless Post' of course). I re-read Susan Pinker's terrific book The Village Effect: Why Face-to-Face Contact Matters (2014) in which she writes:
"Genuine social contact can effectively rewire our brains and nudge us towards life-altering decisions..While language adds a layer of richness and clarity to our intentions, its not always required to get the message across. A glance lasting about twenty milliseconds is all I need to read whether my daughter is anxious or elated".
As the psychotherapist and social commentator Susie Orbach put brilliantly in her BBC Radio 4 audio essay - we need to see each other's faces, that the masks we must wear provide one kind of safety and another kind of danger. She coined a brilliant new term:Social Depression.
Yes the coming months must be about reclaiming in whatever ways we can our social selves. My angle as you know is what I call Social Health - how we can make sure that we gratefully thank Zoom for its service in our hour of need but maximise the face-to-face time we can have.
This is going to be a challenge, because of course we've welcomed distance-based technology into our lives for all sorts of reasons for a very long time. I'd ask us all to make sure we don't wear the screen as a kind of permanent social mask.
These are very different books, even if they have matchy-matchy black and yellow covers, and yet I see a connection in them and you might like to try them. Abigail Dean's first novel, Girl A, is about a young woman coming to terms with a hideous life of parental abuse in which she and her siblings were incarcerated and neglected.
Can you escape from such tight bonds of hell? Can you ever escape such an experience? That's the central question in this taut novel which reads almost like a literary thriller.
Ian Leslie's tremendous and assured polemic is about how we can escape a very different kind of corrosive incarceration, that of our cultural mindset where it comes to difference and conflict. "disagreement should be a way of helping each other overcome the blindspots and refusal of reality we all have" he writes.
Having just witnessed this weekend a rather terrible pile-on towards someone I know very well on Twitter (I don't name names as I'm sure they wish the incident to be very much forgotten) I'm reminded that whilst some people may be Girl A in their lives, trapped for no fault of their own most of us have choices and a Plan B: we can choose to change.
This is not me taking the plunge exactly - although I really cannot cope with all of this freezing cold water obsession people have developed in lockdown, no, give me a Sauna any day please, but I do feel I take the plunge every time I open my mouth and give an opinion and I do feel both foolish and brave each time I do. What, I worry, if I'm neither interesting nor right? Or what, I worry, if I'm both but no-one cares? These are, if you too regularly take the plunge with your ideas and opinions, an occupational hazard.
Anyway, judge for yourself: here are two plunges I took since last time:
1) The very quirky podcast about technology, WD40 - in which Matt Ballantine and Chris Weston interview me about work, my forthcoming report The Nowhere Office, and lockdown life.
2) I took part in the British Academy's Future of the Corporation Summit on a panel including Victor Adebowale, the social purpose guru and the Rt Hon Jesse Norman MP, Chief Financial Secretary (who I shall henceforth always refer to as Mr Kate Bingham, or "husband of the woman who led the vaccine programme for the UK").