And so we begin our erotic dance across the six feet that has come between us. Doing a strip-tease with our mask. Soon we will be touching, and our exhausting disconnection will be over. The economy will reopen.
That is the prevailing story. When will we be “open” here in New York, the world capital of untimely death? This reconnect, reopen mindset is automatic from the media commentators, who seem to be standing in for corporate messaging. Advertising disappeared during the tragedy, just as it did during 9/11. Its absence in the last two months left a quiet world, non-motorized, with clean breezes and parks lit up with wild birds. Life of all kinds, the heralds of ecosystems suppressed by the toxins, flies up and down the streets.
God help us if the caregiving grows into socialism!
And at 7 PM we gratefully cheer. It’s like every street is a canyon of heroes. We are changed. In these locked down two months we have fallen into one another’s bodies and souls. We have declared complete career make-overs in our discovery of the overwhelming essentiality of life. We have changed with the modeling power of the caregivers. Many of us have moved into some form of helping, in organic food, in counseling, in bicycle repair, in music-making. And always in giving. Giving toys and clothes and charge cords. And again the sunset and the applause and shouts, for them, and for ourselves.
The financial class has noticed this and is rushing to “open.” They are rushing out advertisements starring actors in scrubs and plastic gloves and masks. Cutting through the rise of caregiving is Amazon, firing employees with the speed of an overnight delivery. If a worker walks along the conveyor belts and offers any non-Amazon help, then here’s the pink slip. God help us if the caregiving grows into socialism!
Most states and countries are open now in some form, and the varieties of public dance commence. But as the economy reopens will people reclose, will our best angels retreat along with the wildlife? Will we be able to return to the way that things were before March? Of course not.
We can’t go back. We exhausted survivors share a deep feeling that has not been organized into society yet, but we carry it in our bodies. The sorrow and the care put us intimately back into our families and our neighborhoods. The shutting down of the economy made us intensely local. It re-magicalized the foreground.
Caring is simply the overwhelming emotion now. Does “open the economy” mean that we are supposed to suddenly compartmentalize this love of others (and self too) and judge it, and monetize it? Are we supposed to call all this love — impractical? Is it a thing of the past like a wild holiday that won’t be repeated? No, this is a new economy.
This two-month flash of realization that our lives are precious and momentary, left a lot of us not noticing the news shows. But if we watched we were dismayed at the behavior of our Trump-era leaders, from Modi to Macron to Boris to Bebe to Jair to Prince Salman to Justin to Xi and Putin. The leaders of nation-states seemed to be working for a machine off-stage, an algorithmic monster computer giving them the data that they cared about the most. They were like frantic boy actors, rearranging their hate and fear and high-end luxury to keep consumers stoked for their machine. But is all of this still working?
Real leadership surfaced in the cry of families huddled in the streets outside the hospital windows, in listening to loved ones reporting unexpected memories, in going to a lonely neighbor on a stoop who has gone silent for days. For two months we have not processed our feelings through the messaging of products and profits. Caring-giving opens and opens… We feel a collective leadership in it.
“Open the economy!” is a lie. The economy hasn’t been just a financial system for many years. It became our way of life and now we’re supposed to return to it. The economy sucked up all sectors: religion, military, politics, the arts, healthcare, agriculture and education. And then the natural world rose up and completely defeated this single-system culture.
The coronavirus gives us freedom from this way of life, and now we have a clear choice, to consciously return or to withdraw from the monoculture. Wall Street waits for us locked and loaded. Speculative capital has rushed to the executives, anticipating a reenactment of the disaster capitalism of New Orleans and Detroit — and its twin disastrous source of profits, the death of ecosystems in the natural world.
They will go back to their predator ways if we “open the economy.” They will try to consume the Earth completely and make deadlier apocalypses if we continue in our role as credit-driven consumers.
What has opened in us?