Slow Motion Collective Trauma

It's been a rough couple of decades... I mean months. I've been struggling for weeks on what I want to write about this pandemic, and I'm not even sure that I have anything specifically cogent to say, which seems, in some ways, unlike me. But here we go.

This morning, I woke up thinking about one specific theme that has been present in social media about productivity, and the lack thereof during this pandemic. My social circles (and social media circles, although they are a little more broad) are largely filled with people with educational and professional privilege. That is, I belong to the class of people who are mostly staying home. Most of my friends are older, and most, if they have kids at all, they're gone. We have careers that allow us to work from home, and we mostly have financial cushions to allow us to weather this storm.

And for us, this has been a traumatic experience. I can't even begin to image what this has been like for people in the health care field, who are having to treat patients with Coronavirus. And others who are still working, especially those who are working in jobs that hardly allowed them to make much of a living before this pandemic hit. Or people in the "gig economy" (really, the "corporations externalize costs economy".) These are people who are risking their lives each day to make a living. And then there are those who were already having a hard time making ends meet (if they even could,) and find themselves out of work.

I have been feeling some survivor's guilt: for a variety of reasons, largely luck, it is most likely that I will weather this storm and be fine afterwards. I live in a state and a county that has, largely, responded extraordinarly well (that is, like the entire country should have responded, really) to this crisis. So the cases here are still quite low, and unlikely to overwelm the health care system. It's taken me a while to allow myself to feel all of this - the fear and uncertainty of the pandemic, as well as the survivor's guilt, and the complexity of privilege at a time like this.

This is, of course, an opportunity for us that have some privilege. It's a time to give what we can, whether it be financial, logistic or practical. It's a time to acknowledge the privilege we have, and embrace the complexity of it. Also an opportunity to begin to collectively work with those with less privilege to imagine the world we want to live in after the coronavirus epidemic is over.

Things will never be the same, ever. And we have an opportunity to fashion a new society - one where everyone has what they need: food, shelter, and health care. And people have the freedom to fashion their lives so that it is enriching and full of joy. We've had this capacity 50 years or more; can we make it a reality?