The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated how much we are interdependent and, thus how much we need each other for mutual flourishing.
The humanitarian response to the socioeconomic fallout of the pandemic convinces us of the truth of St Paul’s use of the metaphor of the body in his pastoral letters that encourages individual Christians to see themselves as part of a body and responsible for each other.
The words of the English poet John Donne in 1624, “No man is an island” certainly rings true for us 400 years later. The suffering of others directly and indirectly impacts the wellbeing and/or success or failures of countless others.
What do we do with this fact of our social and economic interconnectedness? Is this a social observation that carries no moral implications whatsoever?
Catholic Social Teaching has long taught that an interconnected world calls for responsibility towards each other. Solidarity is a value that not only acknowledges our interconnectedness but recognises a moral duty to care for those with whom we share the bonds of humanity.
This value does not speak of interconnectedness from a functionalist perspective but takes it further to include compassion for the other in their suffering and sharing with others the fruits of the earth.
Christian solidarity calls us to feel and respond to the pain of the other. Our interconnectedness is not for socioeconomic convenience that keeps an economy growing and a society interacting.
The Church’s teaching on solidarity envisions that our interconnectedness should move us to pain with those who pain and cry with those who cry in a way that moves us to act on their behalf.
Our interconnectedness, according to the principle of solidarity, should inspire us to exclaim, “If I move upwards, I should take another with me”.
In more practical terms, moved by solidarity, a Christian should say, “If eat I, I should not eat alone.” Solidarity ensures that the strong look after the weak; the rich look after the poor and the powerful defend the powerless.
Solidarity as a Catholic principle bears a fruit which is the moral call to share the benefits and burdens in a society. We are called to distribute the benefits and burdens of this global healthcare crisis. Some are strong enough to bear the burden of adjustment and financial contraction and not be quick to lay off workers. The rich can help the poor with food support and devices for online learning.
In sharing burdens, everyone must play a part in not further contributing to the burdening of the other by obeying healthcare protocols.
Employees and workers can give more labour/productivity at the workplace as other employees are absent because of State or self quarantine.
We are in this together and therefore, no group can say stand aside and watch another bear all the burdens of saving life and livelihood.