A while back, when I was commuting, I ran across an idea on the TED Radio Hour podcast. I think it is in the interview with Naiomi Klein. The subject is what can make a movement hold together? What inspires people to take the big step and actually act, instead of just complaining about things? The interviewee suggests that a crucial ingredient is having an inspiring vision to move towards. It can’t just be about how bad things are, it has to be about how good they can be.
Yesterday I fell down a bit of an internet rabbit hole and landed on this article from The Atlantic on the pitfalls of meritocracy, and how it has mutated into a system that perpetuates hereditary wealth. It’s an interesting article for many reasons, but one thing I picked up on was the phrase ‘time famine.’ I’m not totally comfortable with it — being terribly busy cannot be compared to starvation. On the other hand, it is profoundly evocative of the desperation for downtime that plagues many American families.
I wonder if all these stay-at-home orders will spark some movements. Many households have now had a chance to see what it could look like to have a saner work/life balance and/or work from home. A chance to see how it feels to not be famished for time. Many households have gotten a glimpse, just a glimpse, of what a Universal Basic Income would be like. We’ve all seen what less driving and less shopping look like. And we’ve all marveled at the clear blue skies and quiet streets. Many of us have rediscovered going for walks and bike rides.
Could this be the experience that galvanizes a new environmental movement? Could we wind up fundamentally reassessing our relationship to work? Could we be inspired to live healthier lives and/or simpler lives? Could we take inspiration from many of our Governors, who have emerged as competent leaders, and have a movement towards a saner politics?
In his press conference this morning, Andrew Cuomo said that we need to talk about not just reopening, but re-imagining. This pandemic has caused terrible losses, exposed the disastrous levels of structural racism in this country, laid bare the circus of enraged kindergartners in D.C., tanked our economy, shown us that our economy wasn’t working for a lot of people even before it tanked, and caused suffering and grief. We don’t have control over any of that.
But we can control how we respond. Do we roll over and let things get worse? Do we continue to let tribal political divides prevent us from acting in all of our best interest? Or do we rise and demand that going forward we will have a decent health care system, less income inequality, enough time to do our adulting and then some, genuine equal opportunity, and a sustainable approach to living on this planet? These should all be bipartisan issues. Can this crisis help us see that?
Signing off. Take care, and take care of one another.