Outlines in the shadows

Author: Dom Rottman

I don’t want to live in interesting times.

Angst and anxiety reach new heights, and enmity blossoms faster than spring’s flowers. I can feel myself slipping away in new ways, ways I never thought possible, and I can see and feel the same in everyone else too. Trapped and tethered to our own homes, every whiff of fresh air we can manage to give ourselves reeks of blood and pestilence. More sick. More dead. The numbers still grow even when we do what we can; the statistics of our new material world give little comfort or encouragement to measures we must take regardless–with little sign of such measures to be loosened anytime soon. We know this will be over eventually, but when has “soon enough” ever been soon enough?

It doesn’t matter if it ends in eighteen months or if it ends tomorrow. What matters is what we will do when it does. Are these the lives we really want to be leading? Is this really the society we want to be living in? Should “business as usual” ever be allowed to return to “business as usual?” There is never a need for a reason to ask these questions (Indeed, they can and should be done at any time), but right now there is no better opportunity. We can talk all day about how this could have been prevented or weakened–oh, if only Xingping didn’t cover it up, oh if only Trump would listen to reason, oh if only people and governments would do the sensible thing–or we can talk about how next time things will be different. Next time, people won’t have to worry about taking time off work. Next time, people won’t have to worry about eviction or feeding their family. Next time, the profit motive will not take precedent over human lives.

And with these resolutions, we’re just getting started.

I write in a rather hopeless time that there is no better time to hope than now–hope for a new and better world, hope in our actions as individuals and communities, hope in change. Why keep the power in the hands of corporations and governments? You beg them for mercy, you beg them for aid, and for what? A $1,200 dollar check in the mail only so that you don’t starve off and die, only that you are able to live and reproduce the very conditions which damn you? What are they without us, ordinary individuals? Nothing–and we can see that no more clearly than now. “Business as usual” has to be suspended. It is our duty that “Business as usual” will never return. Many wish, right now, for the days just before this, for life as it was before Covid-19 to return, for everything to be as it was. I would not wish that for a second–otherwise, what have we learned?

Enough with the could haves and should haves. Enough for longing for days gone by. Enough with lamenting our current situation. We look to the future, we look onward. Do you really see a return to life before? Do you really see darkness? Or do you see something different? Whether you want voting or revolution, one step remains clear: we must reclaim ourselves. Imagine what you can do and–most importantly–push those limits. Take responsibility. Take action.

In this currently broken world, can we not see the outlines of what it could be? Who sets up our networks of mutual aid? Not governments, not corporations. Individuals, families, friends, ordinary workers and people of all kinds. Are those not the things and are these not the people we should treasure most? Are these not the bonds that should be strengthened, even and especially once the world is well? The friends that you check in on now–why cease checking on them later? You find and cultivate time for new activities now? Why not set aside time for them in the future? In these times you go to greater lengths to help your neighbors, family, and friends, as they are going greater lengths for you. Why retract those lengths when this is over?

It may be an empty platitude to say something like “after this, we will emerge stronger.” The reality is that we have always been capable of any strength we show after this pandemic. What is important is that we emerge changed. We apparently grow stronger after times of crisis because change has enabled us and opened our eyes to strength we already had. Paradoxically, I urge you all to act as if you are already free. When such behavior continues into regular, daily life, change can and will be affected.

We have been experiencing quarantined life for some time now. Things may not be as anxiety-driven as they were when it started. However, do not forget it. Do not forget a single moment of strife, do not become complacent during and after the gradual re-entering into daily life. Let your memories be powerful so that from them you can build a new world in the shell of the old.