The Problem With “Imagining” A Better Tomorrow
Gal Gadot’s insensitive response to the harsh realities of COVID-19
There’s a difference between good intentions and good actions. In the face of COVID-19 this has become obvious. The pandemic has rendered visible many of our society's inequities; highlighting the disparities between the privileged elite and well, the rest of us.
Although we face the same pandemic, the responses of the wealthy show that they are further removed from the breadth of its impact than those without the protection of wealth. This lack of awareness has been on full display online. Gal Gadot’s Instagram is a perfect example.
Throughout the video, we watch as Gadot and a slew of famous friends — like Kristen Wig, Will Ferrell, and Zoe Kravitz — take turns singing lines from John Lennon’s “Imagine.” Gadot composed it after having come across a clip of a man in Italy, who was playing the same song from his balcony on a trumpet, for the people listening below. She said that she was overwhelmed with feeling and chose to organize this star studded video to illustrate that COVID-19, due to its widespread and undiscriminating nature, should serve to unite us in our shared humanity. She assures viewers at the end that “we are one” and we’ll get through this together.
Unfortunately, the video only succeeded in illustrating the vast distance between the average citizens of this world, who are navigating mounting economic and physical threats to their wellbeing, and this barrage of celebrities. The majority of whom were filming themselves from within gorgeous and well-stocked mansions.
We, as a global community, are struggling. However, it is a mistake to say that our struggles are the same and ascribe any sort of “oneness” to this experience. The wealthy don’t have to worry about paying next month’s rent and bills when they lose income; or affording childcare in the wake of school closures; or getting quality healthcare. Without addressing these inequities in their calls for togetherness, and emphasizing the social responsibilities of the haves to the have-nots in times of crisis, the message of unity falls flat.
In this video, I don’t see members of my community coming forth and challenging us to care for and support each other. I see outsiders to my experience, and the experiences of my loved ones, telling me to “just chill.” To have faith that this will all come to an end, and use this as an opportunity to bask in the warmth of togetherness.
All fluff and no substance.
What does better even mean anymore? If better means a return to the systems that allowed for such massive wealth disparities in the first place then I don’t want it.
This would have been an excellent opportunity to plug a COVID-19 aid fund. Or one of the many grassroots and global efforts around the world; wherein individuals, without means or celebrity, are giving their time and labor to fight this virus. Those people are doing necessary work to mitigate this catastrophe and it would be really meaningful if Gadot made mention of them and used her platform to help direct funds and volunteers to those programs.
I’ve seen very little effort, on the half of the celebrities present in this video, to organize in service of lower-income and otherwise at-risk communities during this pandemic.
I have seen a lot of videos like this one, though. Wherein rich people, who have very little in the way of information to share beyond “wash your hands and stay inside,” insist on selling me a Hallmark card version of togetherness and faith that actually only manages to assuage their guilt and feelings of separateness. While offering the less fortunate no recourse outside of faith that this will all magically get better.
What does better even mean anymore? If better means a return to the systems that allowed for such massive wealth disparities in the first place, and linked our ability to access care to our earning potential, then I don’t want it.
Almost everyone I know, who wasn’t a salaried employee, has lost their main source of income due to business closures, temporary shut-downs, and mass firings. Most of us are fighting just to stay in our homes, and continue to feed our children. Those individuals whose insurance was linked to the job that just let them go, are wondering how they might afford care should they fall ill. The cost of this virus has been the forfeiture of our belief that hard work can offer us any lasting security. Why would we want to return to the conditions of the society that put us here in the first place?
In the midst of this pandemic, all I see are the people with the least giving the most. From the underpaid nurses on the frontlines to the lunch ladies in my city, who are still leaving their homes and going to serve two meals a day to students — despite the fact the school is not in session. Within my community, people are organizing food drives, aid funds, and supporting their neighbors. Watching them give everything while our society's most favored offer nothing but poorly edited platitudes about oneness is infuriating.
I am no longer satisfied with empty words. I want action.
Judging from the responses to Gadot’s video, I’m not alone.
There have been quite a few celebrities that have responded to the urgency of this crisis with actual action. The Try Guys, an Instagram oriented media group, produced a similar video that ended in a call for their watchers to support Global Giving’s COVID-19 relief fund. Doctor Joshua Wolrich is using his account to challenge misinformation and inform his substantial following. Sweet Antoni, from Netflix’s Queer Eye, is posting videos teaching people how to make simple meals at home using leftovers and pantry staples, while consistently plugging Feeding America, an organization dedicated to ending hunger nationwide. Accounts like these are doing the important work of funneling information and resources throughout communities. These efforts have been crucial in mediating panic throughout a pandemic rife with misinformation and fear-mongering.
Gal Gadot had good intentions. But when I watched that video all I could think of was all the people I know who don’t know how they are going to pay rent in a few days; and the fact that I cannot help them, because I don’t know how I’m going to pay rent in a few days.
Gadot’s video does nothing for us. All it does is help her, and her famous friends, feel good about themselves while they ignore the glaring truth: we are not one.
Acknowledging that is the first step to building a world that is equitable. A benevolent community. Where everyone contributes their fair share to the wellness and safety of others. Where nobody is left jobless or without care during a disaster, while others thrive in their beautifully landscaped isolated villas.
When John Lennon asked us to imagine a new world he should have emphasized that imagining was only the first step. If we ever wanna see that new world, the next step requires work.