It's darkest before the dawn
Written by Andrew Wilson, founding partner
27 February 2021
“It is always darkest just before the day dawneth” is a thought first penned by the English theologian and historian Thomas Fuller, in his 1650 religious travelogue A Pisgah-Sight Of Palestine And The Confines Thereof.
It is a metaphor to hold close when times are at their toughest, as they are for so many right now. Lockdown in a cold and dark northern winter has been testing, much more so than when this all began last year. But the thaw has begun in every sense.
Tonight is the full ‘snow’ moon. The term was coined by Native Americans because the February moon presides over the hardest month of winter when the most snow tends to fall. Three weeks from now it will be the vernal equinox, as spring finally arrives for our hemisphere.
Each day we gain four more minutes of light. So now is a good time to gaze forward with hope and belief in better times to come. In today’s digests of our favourite reads of the week we try to offer some reasons to believe, as an act of erring in the direction of kindness to ourselves. Dawn and spring are coming.
1. Why optimism about the economy is so important
The Cambridge public policy professor Diane Coyle wrote in the Financial Times this week: “what we think will happen to the economy in the future determines what we decide today — and thus shapes the future. That is especially important in 2021 as much of the developed world prepares for a vaccinated reopening of their economies”. In simple terms, if we have hope we are more likely to receive the fruits it bears. The case for optimism in a nutshell.
Read in FT.
2. Australia’s oldest known painting is a 17,000-year-old kangaroo
This piece by Alison George in the New Scientist cheered us this week. It is the painting not the kangaroo that is 17,000 years old, of course, scraped in red ochre to a cave wall. The flourishing of creativity in the human mind marked the beginning of the evolution of our species above the daily grind for survival that is the lot of any animal. Art, music and creativity have a very big part to play in the society we must seek to create, if we are to make life much better for all after Covid.
Read in New Scientist.
3. The art of the public information ad
Speaking of art, this piece by the brilliant Rory Sutherland in The Spectator reviews the art of advertising and, more specifically, public information adverts. From the Tufty Club to the Green Cross Code man, we have grown up with and still remember the characters and catch phrases. “Only a fool breaks the two second rule” will be ringing in the ears of my children as I teach them to drive. Sutherland goes on to argue that government needs to err towards such guidance and leave people to choose: “Along with laws and economic incentives, we need a different kind of intervention from government, more akin to painting the lines on a car park than telling people where to park or changing the parking charges. Useful cues and norms — like chevrons on the motorway — which provide encouragement and guidelines, but leave people room for independent action and judgment”. He is always worth listening to.
Read in The Spectator.
4. The importance of self-care
This, by Jennifer Crichton in The Flock will resonate with those feeling exhausted by the unrelenting endurance test that the pandemic has been. She quotes Glennon Doyle: “It’s just that living with anxiety – living alarmed – makes it impossible to enter the moment, to land inside my body and be there. I cannot be in the moment because I am too afraid of what the next moment will bring. I have to be ready.” The message of the piece is that kindness to others comes naturally to so many – and thank goodness for it – but that kindness to ourselves has never been more important.
Read in Flockmag.
5. More than dreams
This piece jumped out at me for two reasons. My 10-year-old daughter asked me last week if I had lucid dreams. I had never heard of them, but they are when you dream and you know you are dreaming. The week before, our remarkable octogenarian chairman, Sir Angus Grossart, recounted a discussion he had with Sir James Black, the Nobel prizewinning scientist. James, Angus and myself are all sons of Lanarkshire, but I have some distance to travel to emulate a fraction of their achievements. I can but dream and that was the point of the conversation – Black’s entreaty to Grossart to “make the time to daydream”. Not just for fun, but because he knew that the mind works when we do not. If a problem feels intractable, stop and divert and give your mind the time to find the way through. There is a lot to be said for it.
Read in The Economist.
6. A case for fixing the welfare state
In The Guardian, columnist John Harris argues that our 80-year-old welfare state has been exposed by Covid to be ‘broken beyond repair’. “Now, 5.8 million people are experiencing the impossibility of life on universal credit, up from three million just as the pandemic began. Rates of destitution have skyrocketed. Covid deaths and infections map tightly on to patterns of disadvantage, and the government’s Joint Biosecurity Centre traces severe outbreaks in poorer parts of the country to ‘unmet financial needs'”. A sobering and urgent read.
Read in Guardian.
7. How Roald Dahl became a passionate vaccine advocate
This is a lovely read from Tom Solomon. He says: “To Olivia, a new film on Sky Cinema, captures the year (1962) that author Roald Dahl’s daughter died of measles encephalitis. The death of seven-year-old Olivia nearly tore the family apart. This terrible story will be new to many people, but it’s not new to me. I first heard it 30 years ago from Dahl himself.” It brings a lot home and is worth reading. We will also look out for the film.
Read in The Conversation.
8. Debating the future of the capital markets
A fascinating debate in the Financial Times between City Titan Lorna Tilbean and Chris Cummings, the CEO of the Investment Association. How to reform stock market listing rules without throwing the standards baby out with the bathwater?
Read in FT.
And finally… A global model for human rights
“While many countries have acted to deter migrants, Colombia has taken a step in a radically different direction, granting nearly a million undocumented Venezuelans the right to stay for 10 years. BBC Monitoring’s Luis Fajardo looks at how the situation compares with other migrant crises around the world and where it leaves a country already struggling with unemployment and the coronavirus pandemic.” And in the Financial Times, the UN commissioner for refugees, Felippo Grandi, writes: “Colombia is bucking the global trend of marginalising and even demonising refugees and migrants — and it has both moral right and pragmatism on its side. Other countries should take note and follow suit.” We agree.