More global and local as the same time

Shopping for food for a pet guinea pig has become a pleasure.

Shopping for food for a pet guinea pig has become a pleasure - Credit: Daniel Hall/Wikimeda Commons

One of the things I have most enjoyed doing through these last few months is a visit a pet food shop in Finchley. I can buy all my bird feeding and guinea pig requirements there. 

But that is not the important bit. What I love is that it is local. I don’t need to rely on an online service to purchase what I need and I can support a local outlet. 

Of course this shop existed well before the lockdown of March last year began, but the pandemic, with its restrictions, has in some ways put two stark routes in front of us. Buy online, or buy through local outlets. Visiting large superstores has not been simple, involving queueing and often feeling more risky. So either we move to the comfort of receiving at home – or we find new local outlets.

The pandemic has almost forced us to be more global and local consumers simultaneously. The same goes for communicating with others.

We will see people very locally. Our neighbours. Those who live on our street.

We may be involved in a street-level mutual aid group. 

But through platforms such as Zoom, we can connect to anyone. Our family and friends abroad. We can hear and see speakers from other countries that we may not otherwise experience. We can have pantomime experiences from our sofa that we may not be able to afford in attending the theatre.

Rabbi David Mason. Picture: Muswell Hill Synagogue

Rabbi David Mason has enjoyed shopping 'local' during the last few months - Credit: Muswell Hill Synagogue

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The big question I suppose is this: Will we be able to reflect on what the consequences of these changes are? 

Online delivery brings more packaging into our house, requiring more recycling and possibly being environmentally damaging. 

We may be less attuned to the working conditions of those working in delivery warehouses and the vulnerability of their contracts. 

At the same time, shopping locally may be more expensive than going online and may still involve transport to get there with its environmental fallout.

As a communal leader, I can see the benefits of the local - a sense of mutual support and a sense of presence which is so important at the moment – but what I pray for, is that a move towards the local, whether on a street, neighbourhood, town, city or national level is one that is accompanied by values of empathy and friendship.

  • David Mason is rabbi of Muswell Hill Synagogue and chairman of Haringey Multi-Faith Society.