Like many, I have recently found myself with some new time on my hands; time normally spent attending meetings, social gatherings or even just making the trip to and from the office. As a person who does not take well to doing nothing, I have filled this time with many things, among which are reading and the sourcing of stories for the children in my life. It was in the midst of one such foray into children’s stories that I found the tale of The Miller, His Son, and Their Donkey. This simple fable got me thinking about a larger idea (as fables are wont to do), namely how criticism is easy, while solutions are hard.

This is particularly pertinent at the current time, when everyone has an opinion on how things are being done, while far, far fewer are offering suggestions on how to do them in the first place.

This can be seen in the many complaints about how Government is tackling business and employment issues, but a notable lack of practical proposals as to how this could be improved (e.g. setting up an SME working group to advise government); or indeed in middle-class chastising of those who take to London’s parks during lockdown, without any suggestions as to where else they could or should go.

This led me to consider what value there is in criticism without the offer of an alternative approach; very little. So why do we do it? Because it’s easy. Critiquing the decisions made by others is a very easy way of venting our frustrations at the situation we all find ourselves in. And heaven knows we need to release it somehow. But it achieves nothing, other than discouraging those who are trying to make the big (and little) decisions necessary to get themselves and everyone else through this.

And so, in the spirit of offering a practical alternative, might I suggest exorcising frustrations and fears raised by the current crisis by getting involved in the efforts to tackle it, assuming you can? There are many ways to do so, depending on the time or energy you have to give; from volunteering for local charities and donating to food banks, to lobbying parliament for suitable PPE for medical staff. Whatever action we take, it will be of more value to ourselves, others, and the communal effort to get through to the other side of this, than simply pointing out the perceived faults of others’ efforts.