Will we shift from ordering civilization by economic principles to humanitarian principles? —Marianne Williamson
Liberation hand-in-hand. We can only liberate ourselves as we liberate others at the same time. It isn’t realistic to say, “Keep everyone below me on the economic pyramid in place, but take down everyone making money on me.” It also isn’t fair to say, “Keep those sweatshops in Asia and those Latin American field workers picking my fruits and vegetables in long back aching days, exposed to all weather. But me, I deserve to be comfortable and safe, with a rewarding career.” It can't work forever that way. The structure is maintained at every level by that level and the next up, so your subjugation is tied to the subjugation of everyone under the 1%. You either break free and go solo, allowing the structure to eventually collapse without you, or you keep helping to prop it up until it falls and possibly crushes many. The most economically disadvantaged in the cities will always be hardest hit.
The status-quo wasn’t all that great. We had a grand social experiment in the western world. The past century let us see that a middle class with plentiful creature comforts and impressive personal power, comparable to that of kings in centuries past, didn't make us a happy society. Many people were happy, but others found plenty to be miserable about even with their relative wealth.
The silver linings. The pandemic may seem like a major disruption, but we’ve heard it is minor compared to those that we statistically should expect in the future. If this shock spurs us to action, we can prevent greater misfortune. It may be that having ramped up our capacity to work from home, many students and workers continue to do so, alleviating at the same time traffic congestion, air pollution, and the in-person contact that could continue to be a risk factor in a globally connected work world. A bigger silver lining many in the IDW have discussed is that we could choose to transition now toward an economy of abundance, not competition and scarcity. Although the pandemic causes us concern for the future, it has the potential to push us toward positive changes we have long needed. It may feel easier to maintain the status quo, even for those feeling unfulfilled in the current economy, but that won’t work. Those choosing a shift to a sharing economy with abundance would help us reconnect with true fulfillment. What is unfolding, we can let it lead us to take the necessary action that will lead us from stagnation.
Re-focus on productive action. The situation feels dangerous, but while social distancing is appropriate, the reality is that most who have died and will die were not far from death already. There is work to be done. Try to focus on that, rather than joining in the over reacting and button pushing. Constant monitoring and blaming does nothing to improve the situation. Following the political show, don’t we already know it’s just others reacting to you and you reacting to them in an endless circle? Your words are falling on deaf ears. This doesn’t mean you should surrender your goals. This means just giving up the arguing. If you want to succeed, stop reacting and make the necessary changes.
Choosing the new normal. No doubt the pandemic will change our societies. It will take some time to adjust, but we can make decisions now that will steer the change for the better. Just hold on, using the inner work practices. Initial aversion to the challenges will pass for most of us.
Sheltering in place. Many may reach a critical point and run out of the necessary resources to continue. The situation is not hopeless, however. There is a need to give and accept help from unexpected sources, maybe neighbors or banks that are offering no-penalty payment delays.
Short-term economic measures. There’s a resurgence of talk about UBI in the context of Covid-19. If we move away from an either/or approach, it might work to have generous grant funding of public benefit projects that would be reported on and accountable. This might be a plan Democrats and Republicans could agree on. There’s a resurgence of talk about universal health care. Perhaps the solution is a middle way between extremes. For example, preventative health is quite inexpensive compared to treating disease, and could save more lives, but it doesn’t generate the most profit or have the urgency to put it at the top of public funding priorities. If there were more publicly funded basic care clinics, but not public funding for the more expensive treatments of preventable disease, that might be a workable compromise. It could satisfy the Republican insistence on accountability and keeping government spending lower, and meet the Democrat’s insistence on a level of basic support.
Extract yourself from the gridlock. You will need to get used to seeing others around you continue to fight. Maybe the best we can say to them is, “Pick your battles. Is this really the hill you want to die on?” The best way out of the twitter wars is to see there is some validity to what you are arguing against. If you can’t find a compromise or agree to disagree, leave the situation. Otherwise you are just stuck, with no way to move forward. Find others willing to move toward solutions, and do that on a small scale if that’s where you can start. The local level is sometimes where solutions can be tested and provided as examples for larger implementation.
Trade-offs in a new economy. You may be hoping for a certain outcome, such as “back to normal” or “back to the 1970s.” If so, would you be trading a potentially brighter future for the mediocre past? You may be hoping for a radical government-instituted change, not seeing that opportunities to bridge the impasse are already available to us thru our own initiative. The past way of doing things won't work; it’s what got us here. Justice and economic sustainability are principles that support each other, and at present, both are severely strained. Could we bridge differences with innovative approaches? What are the possible trade-offs we could accept if flattening the economic pyramid means giving up some of the perks we're used to?