Have you noticed the memes circulating about the end of normal? Claiming that we can’t go back to the way things were before the virus spread?
Have you seen these claims, and felt scared that once the lockdowns and quarantines are lifted that’s exactly what will happen? We’ll go back to living the “Story of Stuff,” the production-consumption cycle, and the rat race. Back to business-as-usual.
I’m concerned that we’re about to miss a critical window for lasting transformation, capable of honoring all the suffering, trauma, and loss. I wonder if we might consider our options together a bit more before we simply follow orders from our supposed political leaders (of any affiliation).
They’re sure to tell us it’s our duty to get back to school and work, and present a buffet of low wage jobs, while a deluge of ads entice us with once-in-a-lifetime deals. Can you hear them already preparing to stoke soundbites of triumph and profiteering? Why? The 1% know that if they don’t get us spending and “living our best life” right away, they’ll have a very big problem on their hands.
You see, the markets don’t work without us.
Since last year the U.S. Federal Reserve had already been injecting huge sums to keep shares afloat. 2020’s emergency stimulus funds only exist at all to prolong the illusion of confidence long enough to reach an orgiastic consumer spending spree — that taxpayers and citizens could intentionally, wholeheartedly deny in solidarity.
If this pandemic carries with it any possibility of cultural awakening or mythic initiation of consciousness, then it’s very likely that the moment restrictions are lifted is the moment our people and planet’s future depends on mass economic disobedience.
No protests in the streets waving weapons, slogans, or flags required. No claims of revolution. No traffic. We could all go sit out on our roofs and stargaze. An uprising of stillness. A silent revolt.
We’ve done our duty staying home to protect each other’s health. Now, perhaps, we have a duty to stay home to restore our civic bonds.
As the governors unveil their plans and the Administration blisters, it seems clearer, that should we fail to take action now, the levers of disaster capitalism are poised to ensnare, siphon, distract, betray, censure, confuse, poison, and dominate future resistance.
We’ve seen pollution levels drop worldwide as non-essential travel was grounded. We’ve marveled at the return of wildlife to even the most congested of habitats. We’ve seen that a world in balance with life is merely waiting for our invitation and devotion.
Why not stay present with seeing things as they are? Why not let our ecosystems and social lives enjoy the downtime until we take the time to figure out a common path forward? If Covid-19 is an accelerator of broken conditions, why not embody paradigm shift now?
Here we are: Stuck between rehabilitation and extinction. Endless growth and resilience. The current future is under funded. It’s despoiled and toxic. It’s under educated. It’s under cared for. Fractured. Broken apart. And the corporate power dynamics are bent only on making this pandemic a tool for more social fracking: like 9/11, like Kristallnacht, like the Inquisition.
When it comes to liberating humans against corruption and exploitation, doesn’t history reveal that it pays to go beyond operating system updates, and rewrite the principles. In fact, justice demands abolition.
So why step outside in the age of the Great Turning for anything less than a fully-loaded Green New Deal? A bailout for the people both rural and urban. A regeneration of the biosphere. Universal Basic Income. An economy that cares. Elected representation that serves public good. At least!
Maybe other moments would come. Maybe collapse and chaos are inevitable. Yet ask yourself: What happens if we choose staying home as the new normal for now? What happens if we don’t shop, commute, or jet set the rest of the year away, but rather float further down the river of this new pace of life? Maybe focus more on planting gardens and forests than chasing stocks? When did we last have a chance to listen deeply to our families' troubles, enjoy a walk, or pluck something from an orchard?
What happens, some of us are wondering, should we give ourselves permission to get used to living more essentially? Some of us call this new minimum impact lifestyle permaculture. It’s more host and hospitality than parasite. It’s focused on creating a more biodiverse planet where humans are reconnected with the web of life by restoring it through science, biomimicry, and improved land use. Permaculture asks us, “What happens if we exchange momentary gratification for a long term investment in commonwealth? What happens if we focus on growing food with our neighbors instead of reinforcing supply chains? What happens if square one is to effectively reform society into a holistic partnership?”
It. Might. Not. Be. Fun.
Or maybe so? Why not? We still have Sondheim and raga, right?
But the sacrifice now just might help us open our hearts, minds, and hands to something better. Or even many better options than business-as-usual… again. Who knows? There’s still 12 minutes left to play. Plenty of time to make a move. This isn’t even overtime yet. We still live with wild packs of wolves in the mountains, and pods of whales in the seas. For now we can still snail mail votes and hashtag boycotts. There are possibilities. Have we really considered becoming a generation of foresters, seaweed farmers, and tidal energy harvesters?
The wheels of industry have finally clamored to a halt. Can’t we let our front line workers rest and recuperate a bit. Can’t we all take a breather from the last few centuries of civilization building until we’re able to look at things with fresh eyes? Maybe volunteer to pick up some shifts or make sure our neighbors have enough groceries for the week. We just got here. What if we’re just not ready to launch back into the incessant conquest of Mars, robots, and awards seasons?
If we can shelter-in-place to overcome micro contagion, we can keep our pajama fashion and Zoom schedules on lock a bit longer to boycott the attempts by Gates and Zuck at digital macro feudalism. If we can flex our mindfulness muscles and sit tight awhile longer, the new normal could give tyrants and oligarchs everywhere a fateful case of penitence. If we can sustain our Great Retreat into the summer, we could demand a world that works for all of us.
If we can imagine voluntarily quarantining through November, we could mobilize a strike powerful enough to earn back more than mere rights — we could regain our faith in humanity.