Workers' Weekly On-Line
Volume 50 Number 10, March 25, 2020 ARCHIVE HOME JBCENTRE SUBSCRIBE

Letter to the editor

People taking the initiative on the Isle of Wight

I would like to share my experience as to how people have taken their social responsibility seriously in organising to combat coronavirus on the Isle of Wight. Early on, certain known democratic personalities discussed the need for some kind of care organisation across the island. A Facebook page was set up where people could contribute, and an administrator maintains the page. Organisation is developing. The page has now taken on a life of its own, with many people discussing problems and offering solutions as they arise.

Today, volunteers are organising in an even more coordinated fashion to deliver care to high-risk people who are self-isolating. The elderly and some people with medical conditions require help. We now have well over 200 volunteers at the last count. It has hugely increased since a fortnight ago. They deliver food and other things to those in need to their doors, doing their basic shopping and more. The Ventnor Town Council Community Organiser has now stepped in to assist the process, printing information, popularising organisation to help the co-ordination of events.

On the page, various issues are discussed as they pose themselves and solutions are, more often than not, put forward. A new page has also been created, specifically for posts rather than comments, where people can make their political interventions on the latest national and international developments and raise complex scientific issues and viewpoints.

The kind of discussion on the support page has raised problems such as local people following isolation and distancing guidelines, and what to do about those who are not following sensible guidelines. The main way of dealing with the problem is seen through education and persuasion rather than heavy-handed draconian discipline. The main emphasis is unity. People are rejecting "opinionators" and divisive argument. In one case, a pub was encouraging custom; when scrutinised, the pub decided to close its doors and the customers have agreed to move away. The other option was police enforcement, which did not become necessary.

Another issue discussed was how to deal with shortages on shelves in supermarkets. The issue was raised on how to overcome such problems of supply, shelf-stocking and getting products to the neediest. Various conclusions are drawn, considering the decisions of supermarket chains in opening times and distribution as well as shelf stacking. The point being was to find out the underlying problems and oppose blaming people for the problem.

There have been numerous contributions and interventions by various democratic personalities on the island.

"Can I use this group to offer help to people who need it in my area and if so, how?" was one question asked many times. The answer came back: "Register as a volunteer on this site or answer individual posts as they appear".

There have been many detailed questions and answers. For example, an issue arose about old people in queues using shopping trolleys and baskets. It made people conscious and aware of a problem. A discussion ensued to find a solution to how old people can use shopping baskets in supermarkets and not carry the quantity or use trolleys for mobility.

Another question was: "We're self-isolating, we haven't been in contact with people in 6 days apart from people dropping things at the door and moving away. My mum is currently self-isolated too (day 3) and I'm wondering after the first couple of weeks can we go and see her where we have all been isolated. She lives alone and can tell it's already upsetting her. Obviously, I don't want to endanger anyone or be in danger, which is why I'm asking what you all think. She doesn't live far away. We were going to walk there and use her garden so our son could run around as we have nothing where we live, but she's staying indoors away from us. I just don't know what the guidelines are for after the first 2 weeks of isolation. Thanks for any help/advice".

Answer: "Hi.... Myself and my family run a pub and because we are closed, we are cooking meals with ingredients, kindly donated by local businesses, and delivering to doorsteps of people like your mum free of charge. Would you like us to help your mum too? We have zero contact and leave the meal on the doorstep using protective gloves..."

In another contribution, a teacher offered: "I've made a group for us parents or carers to share what ideas we have for keeping the kids occupied while off school. Lesson plans, activities, cooking, anything that you are doing or plan to do, please share so that we can support each other... Island families. Please come join".

One member of our community asked: "Will anyone be able to pick up ... milk for me this week, please? Isolating for 12 weeks and no one else drives in the family".

A volunteer answered: "I can get it for you. I live in Newport and will be going to [the supermarket] tomorrow".

This is only a tiny fraction of things discussed, which illustrate how many are providing democratic solutions to a wide range of problems.

On one website a person stated, "Please write to your MP and ask them to do more to make sure people do what they need to do to reduce the impact of the pandemic, and reduce the number of people who get it and the number of people who die - but ask them not to use this crisis as an excuse to take away our human rights. We don't want martial law".

This is the kind of spirit that exists amongst the people of the Isle of Wight who have a deep desire to empower themselves and encourage the democratic personality to take prime place.

Once again, the powers that be are edging towards police powers to "solve" problems. They will not succeed if they go down this path. The means do not justify the ends. The people are taking the initiative to defeat this pandemic and are showing the way forward.

Retired Worker, March 23, 2020


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