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Youseff filming girls in zaatari refugee camp

'Before we know' by Professor Helen Storey in response to Zaatari artists defying Coronavirus

Written by J Tilley
Published date 16 April 2020

We are all learning now – no one is the expert in living this.

As with everyone’s plans for 2020, this great humbling has already triggered a flow of writings which seek to make early sense, any sense, of why this? why now?

Predicted by some, as the eventual and inevitable consequence of what we have been burning through, the way we, in the Global North, have been living; we aren’t yet in a place when we can name any ‘sustainable good’ that may yet surface from our global halting and the impact COVID 19 is having, tragically and fatally for so many.

How we are in relationship with each other in this period ‘before we know’ becomes so important. Relating in this time, will mean there could be a new solidarity in learning for all where the usual hierarchies of those we name as experts and those we name as learners may be challenged; perhaps it will be a confluence of wisdom (our ‘elders’) and the instinct for now (our ‘youth’) over held knowledge and accreditation that will teach us what we need to keep and what we can let go.

Being still, in the rush to keep as much of our previously ordered lives possible, also seems to be calling us – with this fire comes wind worth listening to as well.

It is Tarek that teaches me how to be in this unprecedented time – he, and 79,999 other Syrians who fled Syria 10 years ago, have already experienced a trauma of change we still can’t imagine and shown us what creating a life after it requires. As we stay in touch over Whatsapp, shaping his ideas back and forth; he carves COVID now, markings made which pace this time and show us what gentle fortitude can procure.

I’ve learnt from everyone in Zaatari, that it is the enacting of human kindness, no matter the hardship, that first surfaces resilience; something we can also see in abundance, all around us now.