COVID-19: The Radical Potential For Life

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Crimes & Misdemeanors:

Making promises to their citizens is nothing new to most governments. In America, the most central promise is that citizens be protected in the event of a catastrophe. COVID-19 is a catastrophic virus, one among many, that has wreaked havoc on global health: physical and mental stability, psychosocial relationships, and the economy.

Two of the world’s economic leaders, have failed in their central promise. Authoritarian leaders and supporters lead each in their own way, China and America.

The Chinese government attempted to silence Dr. Li, a Chinese physician who sounded the alarm, heroically, as he spoke out about the virus in Wuhan. His bravery cost him his life.

The American government, too, has let their people down, failing to protect them. Their leadership refuses to provide the financial commitment, equipment, and protective gear necessary to protect health professionals on the front lines.  

Scores of doctors, nurses, and healthcare workers have died as a result of their administration’s lack of response. These deaths aren’t just numbers, they’re human beings who have children, friends, cousins, and parents grieving over their losses. Over 70,000 Americans have died.

The United States representatives have refused to be part of any global meetings to address this pandemic. Because, as we all know, ignoring problems makes them go away.  

Leaders from both countries should be tried for manslaughter. The numbers are still increasing as, globally, we have lost more than a quarter of a million people to this virus, while it still isn’t being taking seriously by many powerful government officials.

However, this is only part of the story. You can’t move forward, looking in the rearview mirror. The power of citizens—you and me — to make a difference in how the world works is the most significant story. It is a testament to the fact that our behavior matters, that we shape events, and that we are responsible for our actions and our future.  

The Power to Choose Life:

We have the opportunity to restructure our lives and the economy. While this pandemic is financially and emotionally painful in the short term, the promise for a future worth living lies ahead.

The health of our environment is a case in point: the lack of demand is and industrial production is giving Mother Nature a break. This industrial hiatus has cleared up the skies over China (see below) and the air that we all breathe; rivers and streams are less polluted, inviting fish to return to the waterways of Venice.

Most of us are cozied up at home, doing zoom calls with friends. Less traveling has a silver lining. Fewer planes and gas-guzzling cars are on the Earth or in the sky; meaning less greenhouse gases are floating around contributing to global warming. So, we get to watch Netflix and give the earth a break.

NASA took a picture of air quality over China before COVID-19 and now. The before snapshot is located on the left, and the after COVID-19 photo is on the right. The air quality, as you can see, is far healthier for humans now than before the virus. This is the power that individuals have to improve the environment. No amount of Earth-day celebrations has this power.

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It’s easy to think of ourselves as separate entities. But imagine how different the world would look if everyone consumed less and bought only what they loved.  Thinking of one’s actions as if everyone else will follow in suit will help drive real change.

People are connecting differently, more carefully, less frantically over Zoom, and Face Time, for example. These connections are important. They form the linkages for communication that create a break from the oppression of everyday reality, post-virus. These relationships and conversations plant the seeds needed for organizing change: more personal, more connected and enduring. We are learning to find our voice outside of texts and short bursts of communication.

Swing Left, a US organization devoted to progressive politics, has utilized this communications technology to reach over two million voters during this time. Since quarantine began, they’ve raised their goal to reach 10 million people over the coming months. This will have lasting political impact.

Trigger For Revolt:

COVID-19, from this perspective, is a trigger for revolt. The prospect of death, and the immediate sense that life is finite and fragile, is causing many of us to get more engaged. Now, we’ve been forced to ponder our careers, our home life, our aspirations and our purpose. The human race is known to spend inestimable amounts of wasted time stressing over conference calls, resenting the commute to the office and dreading the countless hours of emotional energy on events we cannot change.

Once you’ve screamed into a pillow, or out a window, you might begin to realize that this is a time that you actually longed for. All those mornings that you wished you could lay in bed for an extra hour; or days you resented your job for keeping you longer at the office? Or the incessant pings over your mobile phone. It’s not just Mother Nature that gets the break. We do too.

This time grants us, not only the space to sleep in and enjoy our coffee for a few minutes extra, but it gives us, also, the potential to reorder our lives and what we value: spending more time with family and friends, diving into more creativity, and even restructuring our relationship to our work.

We have demonstrated that we are capable of rejecting the virus that has infected and destroyed 60% of the animal life on earth, 40% of the food source in our oceans, and unleashed industrial-driven climate change that turns poor people into victims of industrialization worldwide. 

Creating alternatives is rarely easy. With a little push from credit card companies, and images of happy people wearing Patagonia and driving a Tesla, it’s tempting to suppress what we know to be true. Returning to our habits, as creatures of desire, we fall back onto high rates of consumption as we get entangled in all the cognitive sacrifices that come with empty work and debts. 

You have the power to change the future; knowing this is crucial in reclaiming your self and the world around you.

Consolidating Gains:

Below are suggestions for moving forward:

  1. Take time to reflect and build on what you have learned about yourself during this time; how does it feel to have more control of your time? How does it feel to invest time into being more creative and more reflective? Share your feeling and thoughts with friends.
  2. Identify your fears—financial, emotional physical, don’t know what you want to do, or how to feel about what’s in front of you. For some, you’ve lost jobs, friends, and loved ones. Fear and sadness have their place. These moments can guide you to emotional reorganization with a fresh sense of commitment. Personal power comes from shedding one skin and growing another.
  3. Join a social or political group that you jive with, that reflects your commitment to issues and concerns that you have. You don’t need to ‘go it alone’ or feel frustrated because so many of our problems seem overwhelming. It may even be virtual, by joining a Facebook group. In addition, food banks are a great place to volunteer, for example. Affiliations are important for psychological wellbeing.
  4. Rehearse the practice of saying “no”. No to injustice, failed governments, environmental degradation, low wage work, and authoritarian relationships. Start saying, “yes” to getting beyond the tyranny of COVID-19.  Say yes to those you love and strangers that you’d like to know. You are more powerful than you think. 
  5. Buy only what you love. Habitual purchases are so 20th century, and they are a drag on our environment and the creatures that inhabit Earth. It won’t be easy at first, but like any drug you can kick it.

Music For Revolt:

If you find yourself needing to dance to maintain hope, and connect with a global tribe, click on the link below and enjoy Resist 2020, music created in Spain in the 70’s for now:

Please send us posts of people and projects that you admire and are moving revolt forward.