IT’S surely a symptom of our brief lifespans – or perhaps the sick joke of a creator god, if you’re religiously inclined – but humanity proves itself time and again to be incapable of thinking of the future; of doing what’s in our own best interests.

We can’t even build a better world for ourselves five years from now, let alone do the hard work required to shape a future for our children full of so much more dignity and happiness than our own sorry present.

Last year, all we talked about was how we could make society better and fairer after Covid. I, like thousands of journalists around the world, spent months interviewing economists, philosophers, and political thinkers about what we could do to make that change. I wanted to know if it could really happen; could we dare to dream?

Yes, it could happen, they said, all we needed was the will to try. Change the economic structure so it favours everyone not just the rich, rein in capitalism and make the markets fairer, reorder taxation so it’s more equitable, green the economy to save the planet and create jobs, recast the New Deal and the Welfare State; think of wellbeing – of human health and happiness – as important an indicator of success as GDP.

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It could all be done. It didn’t require revolutions or new inventions. It just needed political will. But politicians only act when the people demand change. The future was in our hands if only we had the gumption to grasp it.

Clearly, we let it all slip through our fingers. Covid is coming to a stuttering halt. Eventually, we’ll find ourselves on the far shore of pandemic and realise nothing changed. We suffered all that loss – 3.4million dead by today’s count – and let the chance to change life pass us by.

We don’t need to look at humanity’s worst traits for proof that nothing has changed. The Palestine-Israel conflict was burning long before I was born. It still burns. Covid, and the lessons we could have learned from pandemic, weren’t going to bring peace to the Middle East. Northern Ireland still erupts in hate. Humans still genocide one another in little spots of evil throughout the world.

Curing humanity of its innate taste for killing wasn’t going to be achieved by Covid. When we talked of change last year – of Covid providing the impetus to reshape how we live – nobody meant utopia. All that was hoped for was finding a way to do things better, to make more people happier and safer.

So it’s in the little things – not the great horrors – that we find confirmation of our endemic failure. Was there ever a more telling metaphor for proof that nothing has changed than the resignation of the nurse who helped save the life of Boris Johnson? Jenny Magee cared for the Prime Minister when he was gravely ill with Covid. She’s now quit the NHS disillusioned by the lack of respect for frontline staff.


Do you remember when all of us clapped for the NHS? Was that a sick joke too – or just phoney virtue signalling by an entire country?

The climate continues to change – threatening to do away with millions of British homes, we learned yesterday, as land becomes unfit for habitation beneath their foundations. We were going to green the world post-Covid – remember? We can’t even find the will to create a sustainable energy system.

Only some 40% of Scottish companies have taken any steps to decarbonise their business. The blame doesn’t lie solely with them, it lies in the lap of politicians and by extension with us – because it’s not politicians who run the country, it’s us. We elect them to manage our lives. We seem content with mismanagement on a grand and deadly scale.

Child poverty is through the roof. It’s risen in every Scottish local authority in the last six years. Change the world for the better? We’re going backwards at a rate of knots.

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The bodies of dead migrants float in the Mediterranean while the British press obsesses over which countries we can fly off to soon to sun ourselves. So much for our better post-Covid world. Today, we’re vaccinating kids in the West before we vaccinate the elderly in the developing world.

Maybe that creator god – who incidentally I don’t believe in – doesn’t think we deserve a do-over.

Like a symbol of ‘Last Chance’, a report was issued yesterday by the National Audit Office telling us that coronavirus exposed the divisions in society: the neglect of social care, the underfunding of local services. It was like a scream saying, ‘I thought you knew this – I thought you said you cared?’

Once the pandemic ends, the elderly will still be treated without dignity, services which can change lives will keep disappearing. But we’ll all be able to go shopping again, drink in the pub; buy from Amazon and make the rich richer, while the poor get poorer.

In Scotland, John Swinney is now the minister responsible for Covid recovery. Poor John Swinney. He’s a decent guy, but Nicola Sturgeon keeps handing him cups of poison to drink. First, she gave him education – in an administration which has no idea how to improve education – now she gives him a portfolio of impossibility.

Our status quo election in Scotland wasn’t about Covid recovery – it was about the constitution. Decent though the SNP is in comparison to many governments around the world – and most definitely when set against the casual cruelty of Westminster – the Scottish cabinet has not offered us an agenda of change. It offers us an agenda of small, token tweaks and business as usual. How can Swinney truly effect change after Covid if there’s no real ideas on display to effect that change?

In cosmic terms, our 70-plus years on this planet is like the lifespan of a mayfly to us; in the universe’s eyes we’re dead in an afternoon. It seems, we also have the brains of a mayfly: not smart enough to do anything but seek brief joy where we can before we die and leave the mess of the future to our unlucky kids.

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