The flatten the curve movement has been really inspiring- a global, spontaneous public health movement filling in for states which seem unwilling or unable to protect their citizens. The determination, goodwill and willingness to take responsibility inherent in #flattenthecurve should give hope to anyone who dreams of a better world. I think #flattenthecurve may yet end up the most significant social movement of this century so far. It shows that neoliberal capitalism has never fully squashed the solidarity inherent in the human spirit.
There is a danger though in thinking that individual choices to engage in social distancing are enough. Many in the #flattenthecurve movement have recognised this, and are already demanding collective action. We must demand that governments step in to stop unnecessary gatherings and unnecessary work- leaving essential services. Where governments won’t, we need to demand that businesses and organisations shut it down themselves. The movement has recognised this through the additional #shutdowneverything slogan. I want to suggest that from here on out, this needs to become our main slogan. The people who are going to start washing their hands or stop going to large gatherings have already heard the message, the target now needs to be governments and other powerful actors.
Part of this is about giving people the opportunity to do the right thing. It’s hard to stay home and not go to unnecessary work when you’ll get fired. Government and businesses need to make sure no one has to choose between going hungry and possibly being a disease vector.
These demands are not unwinnable, governments and businesses all around the world have been stopping events, curtailing unnecessary forms of labour, and, however begrudgingly, supporting their citizens through this process. We can speed up government action by putting pressure on them. We need to make it clear what the consequences of not shutting down everything will be, and who we will hold responsible for those consequences.