Beware a “Return to Normalcy”

The return to “normalcy” (lifting of the Coronavirus shutdowns) is coming sooner or later. And while I don’t want to be a spoilsport, I do think we need to be heads-up about a potential danger of that return to normalcy. That danger is: forgetting the good that has come out of the shutdown, and letting the good slip through our fingers as we get back on the brutal high-speed treadmill that our modern industrialized society defines as normal.

This article, titled “Prepare for the Ultimate Gaslighting,” by Julio Vincent Gambuto on medium.com, sums up my feelings to a T. (The following is just an excerpt; I urge you to go read the entire article — it is so important, in my opinion, that I’m not loading you up with any other links in this post):

Pretty soon, as the country begins to figure out how we “open back up” and move forward, very powerful forces will try to convince us all to get back to normal. (That never happened. What are you talking about?) Billions of dollars will be spent in advertising, messaging, and television and media content to make you feel comfortable again. It will come in the traditional forms — a billboard here, a hundred commercials there — and in new-media forms; a 2020–2021 generation of memes to remind you that what you want again is normalcy. In truth, you want the feeling of normalcy, and we all want it. We want desperately to feel good again, to get back to the routines of life, to not lie in bed at night wondering how we’re going to afford our rent and bills, to not wake to an endless scroll of human tragedy on our phones, to have a cup of perfectly brewed coffee, and simply leave the house for work. The need for comfort will be real, and it will be strong. And every brand in America will come to your rescue, dear consumer, to help take away that darkness and get life back to the way it was before the crisis. I urge you to be well aware of what is coming. …

…From one citizen to another, I beg of you: Take a deep breath, ignore the deafening noise, and think deeply about what you want to put back into your life. This is our chance to define a new version of normal, a rare and truly sacred (yes, sacred) opportunity to get rid of the bullshit and to only bring back what works for us, what makes our lives richer, what makes our kids happier, what makes us truly proud.

On this blog, I’ve been writing a lot lately about “silver linings” of the slowdown, and how it’s in our interest to consciously decide what we want to keep even after things go back to “normal.” Clearer rivers; a return of wildlife; a resurgence of food-gardening; hearing more birdsong; and getting to meet more of our neighbors (from a social distance while out walking the dog or exercising); devising creative ways to make a living are examples of the kind of thing I’m referring to.

After seeing the above-linked article about the Ganga River getting clear (and supposedly clean enough to drink), one friend commented that she hopes the powers-that-be take this kind of thing to heart. That we CAN do it, we CAN fix the environment, but we need to start now.

To which I replied: So true! And — to a great extent, the powers-that-be is US, millions of everyday people. Do we have the self-discipline to limit unnecessary car trips, flights, and other forms of excess consumption even after the lockdown is lifted? Will we decide that certain aspects of the “new normal,” such as getting to stay home more and not rush around so much, are worth making an effort to keep? I like to think so!

As another Facebook friend put it, “We are the ‘powers that be’… don’t buy it, don’t support it, don’t need it… those three things will make all the difference.”

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