Millions of Americans and Canadians are entering into their fourth week of lockdown, and if there’s one feeling that is uniting us all, it’s one of desperate longing. Longing to step outside without the fear of getting too close to anyone. Longing to have a meal at their favorite restaurant. Longing to get up and go to work to feel like they have a purpose. Longing to congregate, to hug their friends, to have their families over for dinner. Longing to return to normal. Should we prepare for the ultimate gaslighting?
But it’s not just citizens who are feeling this way. Governments, corporations, and industry are chomping at the bit to resume business as usual. To pick up right where we left off. To pretend like this never happened.
That desire, however, poses a serious threat to citizens.
The Ultimate Gaslighting
Gaslighting is a tactic in which a person, group, or organization makes a victim question their own reality in order to gain more power. The technique is subtle but can be so effective that it causes the victim to doubt that what they thought happened was real, and to question their own sanity .
In a recently published article for Forge, Julio Vincent Gambuto warns that we the people are about to be victims of the greatest gaslighting attempt in history. Governments, organizations, and brands are going to do everything they can to make us feel normal again- to forget the last several months of tragedy, isolation, and fear .
Of course, deep down, this is exactly what we want. Millions of us wake up every morning hoping that all of this was just a bad dream. The thought of returning to a time when phrases like “flatten the curve” and “social distancing” were not a part of our collective vocabulary is akin to returning to the carefree days of childhood.
But the unfortunate reality is that this did happen- this is happening- and to wipe it from our memories would eliminate the possibility that anything good could come from such a tragic time in human history.
We can finally see our reflection- and it isn’t pretty
We have known for a long time now that humans have an overwhelmingly negative effect on our planet.
We have dumped plastic into our oceans and destroyed marine life . Fossil fuel production from cars and factories have pumped dangerous chemicals into the air, eating away at the ozone, warming our planet, and even killing ourselves . We have burned down vast sections of rainforest, destroyed plant and animal biodiversity, and now potentially opened the floodgates for a whole host of new diseases and viruses.
And yet, with our busy lives it was almost too easy to ignore it. Not that we didn’t care, not that we couldn’t see it, but, as Gambuto said, we were just too busy to really see it.
But over the last four weeks, as our lives have come to a near-complete stand-still, we’ve been afforded a remarkable look at what the world would be like if humans just simply didn’t exist. The sudden full-stop of almost all human activity, and therefore pollution, has made the Himalayas visible for the first time in thirty years. The air quality over China is better than it has been in decades, as is that of major American metropolitan areas like Los Angeles and New York City.
City-dwellers around the world are, for the first time, hearing birds chirping in their neighborhoods since the world is quieter- it is literally vibrating less– than it was before.
Now that we have been forced to stop the mayhem that is our daily lives, we can finally see our reflection in the clear waters of the Venice canals, and it is an uncomfortable view. Now more than ever, it is clear that the world may truly be better off without us.
We do, in fact, care about each other
Not only have we been shown how our way of life has destroyed our environment, but this pandemic has revealed how we have, effectively, destroyed ourselves and our communities. In our rat-race, every-man-for-himself way of life, we’ve been mistakenly believing that we don’t care about each other.
This pandemic, however, has hit everyone. No matter your race, religion, gender, or socioeconomic status, this virus has affected all of us in some way. And what we’ve seen over the last four months is that we do, in fact, care about our neighbors.
After all the panic-buying, fear-mongering and finger-pointing ceased, as we settled into what has now become our new normal, we’ve seen incredible acts of human kindness across the country.
Grocery stores are taking care of vulnerable populations by offering them priority shopping hours and delivery, healthy individuals are running errands for those who are too vulnerable to go out, teachers are offering online tutoring sessions to students, and personal trainers are offering free workouts to their members online.
Some landlords have forgiven rent for those who can’t work, charities have received thousands of dollars to help feed kids who normally get their only meal of the day at school, and companies have converted entire manufacturing plants into facilities to make protective gear for frontline healthcare workers.
There is a near endless list of displays of human kindness that have been demonstrated during this tragic time, all of which prove that the problem has never been that we don’t care about one another, it’s that we’ve bought the lie that altruism can only be practised at the detriment of our own success.
It is only now that we have been forced to stop everything that we can finally see how that has destroyed our sense of community. This economic shutdown has exposed our most vulnerable to those of us who were too busy to see them before, and we have come together to help them.
What kind of normal do we want to go back to?
So in the coming months, as we are inundated with messages from brands and governments, companies and industries, all who are trying to help us “get back to normal”, we have to ask ourselves- what part of normal do we want to go back to?
You will hear voices everywhere- some from your own peers- trying to get you to forget the trauma that you have suffered in these last few months. To move on from it like it never happened.
But to forget is to learn nothing, and to learn nothing means that the immeasurable suffering that has been felt around the world, the immense loss of life, and the destruction of people’s livelihoods, has been all for naught.
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