COVID-19 should be the biggest wake-up call people have ever gotten. Like: ring, ring! “Hello it’s your planet calling. Can you please continue with the very much reduced fossil fuel use, please, my children? It’s been a nice break. Thank-you!”
Seriously though. This COVID-19 isolation has been an eye-opener.
What did we all do when threatened? I mean, besides go out in panicked droves buying toilet paper 🙂 Well, we did what we had to do to survive. We stayed home and hunkered down with our loved ones.
And we were ok. Some of us were even better than ok. We could do stuff we hadn’t done in years, fun stuff like read and listen to music and play games and paint and write and play with our kids. We used modern tools to stay in touch with each other and to get work done. We learned that the ways we had been living our lives weren’t inevitable or written in stone.
We found out that we don’t NEED to be running around all day long and aging ourselves prematurely with stress. We found out that kids survive without dance and piano and swimming. We took- wait for it- NAPS! Delicious mid-afternoon naps.
I personally found out that if you just sit with the people you live with- just sit with them and a nice cup of tea- eventually these things called “words” form in your brain, and you use your tongue, teeth, and lips to speak them! Then your family members do the same back to you! Sometimes this tickly thing forms in your belly and kind of splurges out of your throat. It’s called “laughing.” I found it quite pleasurable. I wanted more of it!
Certain things turned out to be essential- safety, food, water, shelter, love. Everything else we could literally do without.
And didn’t the outdoors get super-precious? Like, denied of it, we wanted that fresh air and the sounds of birds and breezes.
COVID-19 boiled life down to its essence and its essentials. Faced with the threat of suffering and death, we reduced our attentions to what we needed to do to remain alive and healthy, and to protect our loved ones.
And we learned that we are dependent upon certain outside forces to live. And that some of those forces are not all that benevolent. Some of them couldn’t be trusted to act humanely and responsibly when a threat bore down upon us. I learned this about our provincial government. Some learned this about not only their government, but also about their landlords, the utility companies, their employers, their creditors. Those entities became predatory when people became vulnerable through no fault of their own. They took advantage of a communal threat to become threats themselves. They made things much, much worse for some of our friends, neighbours, and fellow citizens. And that inhumane behaviour is continuing.
But, we discovered, MOST people are just like ourselves. They want to keep their families safe, they want to live in a way that makes them happy, they want peace and quiet and health. Most people, in other words, are good and responsible and willing to do what it takes to help their communities. They will take accurate information and turn it into rational decisions and actions. They will act in ways that benefit not only themselves but also their fellow humans.
These lessons, I would argue, are exactly what we- all of us, myself included- needed to learn. We needed to learn these things because we needed to know that the way we had been living is not the only way or even the best way. We can find ways to “slow down.”
And we needed to affirm that there really is an “us,” when it comes right down to it: faced with a threat, the majority of us do what is in the best interests of our communities. We protect our vulnerable and we look out for each other. Human connections and well-being are still what truly and profoundly matter to 99% of us. And we needed to know that when it comes time, we can meet demands on the tribe. We can get through a crisis.
And we’ll need those lessons in the days ahead. Because many of us will need to continue to lean on the strength of the collective. Compassion, reason, and generosity of heart and mind will remain necessary to ensure everyone can be fed, clothed, housed, and made to feel like part of “us.”
I have no doubt we’ll all continue rising to challenges. And here I acknowledge and thank all of those who continued working while COVID-19 was an active and little-known threat: nurses, doctors, emergency responders, grocery store personnel, police, cleaners, pharmacists, delivery people, postal workers, and everyone else I missed. I know all good folk join me in thanking you for your selfless work and for putting yourselves in harm’s way for your community. You are extraordinary humans!
The takeaways from this post are: 1- we have much to be grateful for. Our families, our friends, our communities are precious. They’re made up of hardworking, responsible, kind, and generous human beings.
2- there are better ways of doing everything society does. We’re born into the structure that other people made. We fit ourselves into it. We’re socialized to it, and rarely question its normality. In fact, we’ll die to preserve it! We’re taught that it’s not only the best way, it’s the ONLY way. Every other way is foreign, unnatural, too big of a change, too expensive… yadda yadda. People make the structure, and then the structure makes the people.
But this COVID-19 time has shown us that there are other possibilities, and that the truly precious parts of life aren’t material or work-related. We of this time haven’t ever, as a society, decided how we want to live or be governed. What we consider truly important, what values we want to guide our functioning. It’s come to that time when we have to re-evaluate what we’re doing, the why’s & how’s, the structure of society and whether it serves all of us fairly, or even promotes our well-being.
Thomas Jefferson said that “every generation needs a new revolution.” He was right. Democracies need to be updated frequently. They need to look inward and assess whether, and how well, they’re serving the truly valuable part of societies, the people. It’s time we had our revolution. It need not be a violent one, but it does need to be a “green” one. Because when we take care of our planet, and our democracies, we are also taking care of ourselves.