There Is No Going Back to Normal: Which Way Do We Choose Going Forward?
There is no going back to normal. Let’s be clear about this, for the writing on the wall is in fact very much so. Either we allow ourselves to be herded into a new totalitarian age, where all our rights and freedoms are taken away, and we are subjected to repeated lockdowns and martial control as further collapses hurtle down the pipeline — or we assert massive resistance to that trajectory and take it into our own power to create another one, based on entirely different values, ones that can actually save us — love, cooperation and caring, simplicity, community, interconnectedness, a sacred reverence for the preciousness of our existence and the whole web of life that sustains us.
Things will not go back to normal, nor should we want it so…but which way do we want it to go? Friends have expressed concerns that once the pandemic is over and things return to normal, people will continue with business as usual and the lessons will not have been learned. But this is not an option. We stand at a bifurcation point — a choice point — between two potential scenarios. We can go one way or another. But return is not an option.
Things will not go back to normal. At some point, as the peak of this pandemic passes, they will ease up temporarily, and the temptation of course will be just to enjoy the goodies temporarily regained, and ignore the much bigger losses, now and coming towards us if we don’t radically change course. With new infrastructures for social surveillance and martial control now already established, our freedom of movement and freedom over our own bodies may very well be lost, as precedents set in this crisis (in the short-term, in our own interests) morph into long-term totalitarian control, in the interests of the government-corporate-banking nexus profiting off the destruction and seeking to quash all resistance, protest or alternative movements.
In a crisis, people tend to narrow their horizons to the immediate, but that is what we must not do. We need to see the bigger picture we are part of, and its multiple contexts, near and far, short and long-term– ourselves, our families, our local communities and global systems — and how the directions we move in with each are inextricably interconnected. We are each part of nested contexts, systems from which our own welfare is inseparable, and we ignore any of these contexts at our peril. This means our personal future depends completely on which way our systems move, and, even more so, who moves them. We are one human family and need to pull together, not to allow the strings to be pulled for us unwittingly by forces and agendas that are not in our interests. For this we need to see the forces and agendas currently pulling the strings, and which way they are pulling them — then take the strings in our own hands and weave a new story together, the future we want to see.
Many people see the coronavirus crisis as a one-off event, something that will pass and then we’ll go back to normal. But we have to see the bigger systemic picture — the background of the global capitalist system that has caused the crisis, and will cause many more to come –cascading into further crises and ultimate collapse — if we don’t wake up now, take the reins in our hands, and radically change course.
What is the bigger social and political context of the crisis, how have we arrived at this point and what we can do about it? First, we need to see that the coronavirus crisis, like the climate crisis and other eco-social collapses we are facing, is a direct consequence of the global capitalist system, which has both destroyed the balance of nature that sustains us, and dispensed with social safety nets, rights and justice, for the sake of the profits of the powerful and wealthy. The coronavirus is at once an offshoot of these interlinked crises, and a herald of what might come — a blaring red-alarm signaling the political, ecological and now epidemiological disaster-zones to which our unsustainable global market system is driving us.
The kind of novel pandemics coming down the pipeline now, like the coronavirus, are an inevitable outcome of our present economic system and its huge disruptions of the balance of nature, including habitat loss and land-use patterns that are pushing pathogens across the animal-human interface, as scientists have attested. The effects are then compounded by our ubiquitous dependence on global transportation and infrastructures, that quickly spread the pathogens worldwide on the one hand, and, on the other, prove so fragile in the ensuing crisis that our vital supply chains break down, leaving people at risk of losing access to the most basic necessities — food, water, medical supplies — when they are most needed.
The global capitalist system has not only caused the crisis, but, in the ensuing atmosphere of panic and confusion, is using the crisis to turbo-charge its own agendas — what Naomi Klein calls disaster capitalism — pushing through its own draconian measures of social control, bailing out the big banks, fossil fuel industry and financial sectors, gutting climate change policy and actions, and isolating people at just the time when public protest against ecological collapse was starting to gather momentum. (This is not to say that the short-term measures of isolation and physical distancing aren’t needed right now — they are — but that they should not be used to piggy-back in ongoing draconian measures of martial control for other agendas in the long-term.) In this way, the neo-liberal order morphs into martial law when its own injustices and depredations are laid bare and its hegemony threatened. This potential for growing totalitarianism is also, of course, now greatly enhanced by the new technical powers of digital surveillance.
In the case of a pandemic, disaster and surveillance capitalism can fuse together to form a perfect, inescapable mesh, morphing into a kind of medical and martial digitally-enhanced fascism, an ultra-, sci-fi 1984, such as never before was possible. With digital micro-chips implanted under our skin, or “quantum-dot tagging” — which may become mandatory with the upcoming vaccine — even our heartbeat, the pulse of our blood, our very breath, may be monitored, tracked and controlled, every moment of our life and everywhere we go.
The truth is that those at the helm of our unsustainable systems have both caused the crises and will try to profit off them, at the expense not only of our rights and freedoms, but increasingly of our very lives. It is even possible some believe they no longer need us, and a vast wipe-out of a large part of the human population would serve them. Robots, artificial intelligence and 3-D printers may dispense with the need for human workers and even consumers — perhaps the wealthy and powerful think they can get on much better without us now, thank you very much.
This is not a conspiracy theory, but becoming more evident every day, to anyone who can connect the dots, as the veneers come down. Once having dumbed down the population and dismantled democracy, those at the helm of the system will no longer even have to pretend that they are on our side — even though the sham has been exposed, it will be too late to do anything. The potentially rebellious masses will be under martial control, with everything from their movements to their heartbeat under constant surveillance.
The captains of the capitalist system — the global financial-corporate nexus, and the governments that serve them — would control us from birth to death, and, if possible, bring on our deaths sooner (as they have with countless other species) if it serves their agendas. Perhaps they feel that less of us here would give them freer rein to extract and exploit the last resources of the planet, before it all goes down.
Lest there be any doubt left at this point, capitalism and technology cannot solve our crises — pandemic, climate breakdown, eco-social collapses — they are what’s gotten us here in the first place. And they will defend their agendas unto death — first, of people and planet, and ultimately themselves (though, until this pandemic, which does not always spare the wealthy, they have not had to face this.)
This is not to point the finger at individuals — us and them — but systems: systems based on wrong values that we all then become enmeshed in — competition rather than caring, domination rather than sharing, selfishness rather than love. We have all participated in these systems to varying degrees, wittingly or unwittingly. We need to forgive ourselves and others for whatever ways we’ve complied with them. This is not a time to lay blame, on ourselves or anyone else — but change our ways we must.
I don’t say this to discourage anyone — rather, much the opposite: to motivate and empower us to come together and act; for this may be the default trajectory, but only if we don’t consciously recognize, resist and transform it. I say this not to frighten anyone, but to open our eyes, to alert us to the potentials. The nature of a crisis is that it offers both negative and positive potentials, both heightened to an exponential degree. We have to know the negative in order to choose the positive, to navigate our way, open-eyed, in full view of the possibilities, with clarity, conviction, and wise courage.
So — so much for the bad news — what about the good news, and how can we enhance it? What I’ve described so far may be what is coming down, from agendas on high…but what is happening on the ground, in the hearts of the people? And can what is happening on the ground turn what is coming down around? Can we the people transform the systems that no longer serve us, that in fact are destroying us and our precious Earth? Can we bring what is most precious in our own hearts forward, to save what is most precious in life?
In their own beings and local situations, people are reacting with either fear, separation and hoarding; or love, selfless service and community spirit. The positive potentials of the crisis lie in the growing expressions of love and caring, the recognition of our interconnectedness; but also the recognition of the fragility of our systems, and the dawning realization that we need vitally to change them. The time to connect the dots between these dawning recognitions is now; that we need to rise above the blinders of our self-interests and express our love and connectedness at all levels — personal, local and global.
The love and interconnectedness that is awakening and being expressed — selfless acts of kindness, neighbors helping each other, community mutual aid groups — are the seeds of another possible future. Yet, heartening as they are, it is critical that they be up-leveled to encompass the systemic dimension as well as personal and local expressions. We must understand the default scenario, the trajectory in which we’re now headed, if we don’t radically change our systems and the values that underlie them. The crisis is awakening a change in values, as we’re called to an awareness of our interdependence more than ever before: that individualistic self-seeking doesn’t serve us anymore, that we are all in this together. But this spirit of interconnection must also be translated into large-scale, deep-rooted changes at the systemic levels: a whole-scale transformation to an equitable, just and regenerative system; the spirit of love expressed in our consciousness, actions and world.
In addition to igniting our capacities for love and caring, there are two other positives coming out of this crisis — heralds of what is possible. First, the Earth has been given a rest from our relentless assaults on her, with immediate, positive effects. Carbon emissions and pollution have been sharply reduced, animals are returning to public squares, birds are singing, waters are clearing, the sky is turning blue. This proves that nature can regenerate quickly if we just change our ways. And this is very good news. It is only business-as-usual that has guaranteed our demise through climate change and ecological collapse; if we don’t go back to business-as-usual, the Earth knows how to regenerate, for her sake and our own. She is offering us a second chance, even at this late stage, holding out a peace sign. It is up to us to take it.
The third positive sign coming out of this is that now we know our governments too can make radical, swift and massive changes when they want to, virtually overnight. There is no more excuse that rapid systems-change is not possible — we have seen how quickly and decisively governments can act when they have the will to. They have not done so for climate change and our other impending eco-collapses only because they did not perceive it as in their interests. But it is in all of our interests to save our dying planet, to reverse the destruction of nature’s balance that is now impacting all of us. This crisis has made it clearer than ever — no one is exempt from this virus, even the richest amongst us.
Thus, the Overton window has slid open in both directions — either a greater consolidation of power of the global elites, leading to further breakdown and lockdown, a normalization of martial law; or a breakthrough moving forward to a world of cooperation, community, of social justice and love. Which will become the new normal? It is up to us. If we can connect the dots of the positive potentials emerging — the awakening of love and interconnectedness; the regenerative power of nature; the potential of governments to act fast for radical change — we have a potent, fertile basis to bring in a beautiful future — but only if we come together and act before it is too late. Before this last window of opportunity is shut to us forever.
The depth and breadth of this challenge need not be overwhelming, but invigorating and renewing, if we come together and support each other. It is calling out the best in us, a collective heroism, from the depths of our hearts. In a crisis we discover what has always been true but we hadn’t had time to notice: that it is love and caring — more than anything money can buy, more than all our possessions — that we all want to receive and that we all want to express.
Crisis offers opportunity, throwing everything into disruption but also an opening and awakening; a Phoenix can rise from the ashes. Let’s do everything to get this vision out there, so that we — we the people, for the sake of our very survival and that of our precious planet — are making conscious, big-picture decisions about our future, taking our fate in our hands. It will go either one way or the other — a Fortress society of martial law controlling our bodies and movements from birth to death, crushing human rights and life itself — or a just, loving, caring world, a reverence for the sacred on this Earth and beyond. This choice is a very simple one, but also a fatefully urgent one: our life and death literally hang upon it.
Such a vision may have once been an alternative or counter-cultural one: now it vitally needs to go mainstream, because our whole culture depends on it. It is up to us who understand this to get it out there, to the general public. And the extremity of the situation now, laying bare the flaws of our systems that are now themselves in their death throes, may make many receptive who were not before.
It is not a question of “will this happen or that?” — it is us, by our actions or inaction, that determine what will happen in the future. These actions start with getting the biggest possible picture of what is happening now, what our alternative trajectories are; and sharing these pro-active perspectives with whomever we can, in our daily conversations and the social media. Expanding the scope of our awareness and possibilities, helping to share that awareness, and building on those positive potentials with others.
This means understanding the default trajectory (devastating people and planet); choosing the trajectory we want (serving people and planet); and getting together with others to put it into action. A big part of this is helping others see what is in our own interests, which is being revealed more clearly than ever now — love, caring, cooperation, simplicity, community — not only in our local actions but our collective systems. Only this can save us.
No, we can’t go back to normal. Business-as-usual would be our death-knell, one that tolls far sooner than we think. So we have no choice but to go forward… and a way is clearing for us, if we have the eyes to see. We need to enter the eye of the storm, and at the eye of the storm is…each other, our oneness with all being. At the heart of the darkness, we find each other’s hearts — one Heart at the core of all life. We are all in this together. It is this, the love that lives in the heart of our being, that alone can light our way now.
Albert Einstein, in a secret letter he requested be held back until the world was ready to hear it, wrote: ‘There is an extremely powerful force that includes and governs all others…This universal force is love…Love is light, that enlightens those who give and receive it…love is power, because it multiplies the best we have and allows humanity not to be extinguished in their blind selfishness…Love is the most powerful force there is, because it has no limits… After the failure of humanity in the use and control of the other forces in the universe that have turned against us, it is urgent that we nourish ourselves with another kind of energy. If we want our species to survive, if we are to find meaning in life, if we want to save the world and every sentient being that inhabits it, love is the one and only answer.”
Things will not go back to normal. The question is — What choice do we want going forward? And who will make the choices? We — the people, for our own sake and that of our sacred planet — must actively choose to be the ones who are making the choices, and then come together and act. For the sake of all life — now, and for all time to come. In fact there is no other choice. The whole of life on Earth is at stake. There is no other alternative. Love is the only answer.
Quote from Einstein: “There is an extremely powerful force that includes and governs all others, and is even behind any phenomena operating in the universe…This universal force is love…Love is light, that enlightens those who give and receive it… love is power, because it multiplies the best we have and allows humanity not to be extinguished in their blind selfishness…Love is the most powerful force there is, because it has no limits… After the failure of humanity in the use and control of the other forces in the universe that have turned against us, it is urgent that we nourish ourselves with another kind of energy. If we want our species to survive, if we are to find meaning in life, if we want to save the world and every sentient being that inhabits it, love is the one and only answer… Each individual carries within them a small but powerful generator of love whose energy is waiting to be released. When we learn to give and receive this universal energy, we will have affirmed that love conquers all, is able to transcend everything and anything, because love is the quintessence of life.”
(Brandon Bays has made a beautiful video of this: https://youtu.be/xFm06a0fRs8. Please share far and wide!)