No matter how I face each of these strange days, something feels off. On days when I feel creative, lucid, and even thankful for some of the side effects of this great global pause — usually on weekends when I ignore the news — I also feel a twinge of guilt. I should be thinking about death counts, government failings, and wealth disparities instead of reading about ancient Indian breathing techniques or delighting in the scent of wisteria on my neighborhood walks, shouldn’t I?
And then, on the days when I’m despondent, low, and depressed, I chastise myself for feeling that way, when I have what so many others don’t: health, a supportive family, a job, food.
It’s an exhausting seesaw: There is the grief for all that we’ve lost and will lose, and there is the hope that this incredible, leveling event will bring about change to what was a very, very broken world before this. And a conviction is emerging: Going back to “normal” should not be our goal.
Since lockdown began, the shortcomings and inequalities of American capitalism have been revealed with stunning speed: People losing so-called stable jobs without warning or severance; gigantic corporations seeking government assistance; complex supply chains faltering, leaving supermarket shelves empty. Many have begun to ask: If the jobs we do all day can evaporate overnight, what does that say about the nature of those jobs, or the economic system they rely upon?
As climate change looms — promising more and more global disruptions — Covid-19 has acted as a kind of brutal foreshadowing. If climate change is a slow-moving emergency, coronavirus is a lighting-fast one, showing us the severe limitations of a globalized, growth-obsessed economy and begging us to change it before it’s too late.