Words by Charles Eisenstein
For a long time, civilization has been headed in a direction that no one really wants to go. It is like we have been following a road with no exit ramp. We see a crossroads up ahead.
It’s just over the hill, around the bend, past the woods. Cresting the hill, you see you were mistaken, it was a mirage, it was farther away than you thought. You keep walking.
Now, all of a sudden, we go around a bend and here it is. After years of confinement to the road of our predecessors, now we finally have a choice. We are right to stop, stunned at the newness of our situation. Because of the hundred paths that radiate out in front of us, some lead in the same direction we’ve already been headed. Some lead to hell on earth. And some lead to a world more healed and more beautiful than we ever dared believe is possible.
Last year, five million children worldwide died of hunger, yet no government has declared a state of emergency or asked that we radically alter our way of life to save them. Nor do we see a comparable level of alarm and action around suicide Or drug overdoses, the autoimmunity epidemic, or obesity.
Why, for that matter, are we not in a frenzy about averting nuclear armageddon or ecological collapse, but, to the contrary, pursue choices that magnify those very dangers?
If we can change so radically for Covid-19, we can do it for these other conditions too. Let us ask why we are able to unify our collective will to stem this virus, but not to address other grave threats to humanity.
The answer is revealing. Simply, in the face of world hunger, addiction, autoimmunity, suicide, or ecological collapse, we as a society do not know what to do. Our go-to crisis responses, all of which are some version of control, aren’t very effective in addressing these conditions. Now along comes a contagious epidemic, and finally we can spring into action. It is a crisis for which control works: quarantines, lockdowns, isolation, hand-washing; control of movement, control of information, control of our bodies. Covid-19 is a threat that we know how to meet.
Today, most of our challenges no longer succumb to force. Our antibiotics and surgery fail to meet the surging health crises of autoimmunity, addiction, and obesity. Our guns and bombs, built to conquer armies, are useless to erase hatred abroad or keep domestic violence out of our homes. Our police and prisons cannot heal the breeding conditions of crime. Our pesticides cannot restore ruined soil.
If there is one thing our civilization is good at, it is fighting an enemy. We welcome opportunities to do what we are good at, which prove the validity of our technologies, systems, and worldview. Thus, we single out Covid-19 as a call to arms, reorganizing society as if for a war effort, while treating as normal the possibility of nuclear armageddon, ecological collapse, and five million children starving.
There is an alternative to the paradise of perfect control that our civilization has so long pursued. We can take advantage of this pause, this break in normal, to turn onto a path of reunion, of holism, of the restoring of lost connections, of the repair of community and the rejoining of the web of life.
Covid-19 is showing us that when humanity is united in common cause, phenomenally rapid change is possible. In coherency, humanity’s creative powers are boundless. A few months ago, a proposal to halt commercial air travel would have seemed preposterous. Likewise for the radical changes we are making in our social behavior, economy, and the role of government in our lives. Covid demonstrates the power of our collective will when we agree on what is important. What else might we achieve, in coherency? What world shall we create? That is always the next question when anyone awakens to their power.
Do we double down on protecting the separate self, or do we accept the invitation into a world where all of us are in this together?
What should we do about the homeless? What should we do about the people in prisons? In Third World slums? What should we do about the unemployed? What about all the hotel maids, the Uber drivers, the plumbers and janitors and bus drivers and cashiers who cannot work from home? “How do we protect those susceptible to Covid?” invites us into “How do we care for vulnerable people in general?”
For a long time we, as a collective, have stood helpless in the face of an ever-sickening society. we have been stuck in the systems and patterns that cause them. Now, Covid has gifted us a reset.
As Covid stirs our compassion, more and more of us realize that we don’t want to go back to a normal so sorely lacking it. We have the opportunity now to forge a new, more compassionate normal.
That is the impulse that stirs in us. It is saying, let’s get serious about taking care of each other. Let’s remember how precious we all are and how precious life is. Let’s take inventory of our civilization, strip it down to its studs, and see if we can build one more beautiful.