By Jesse D. Palmer
After a year of frustration living with pandemic restrictions, the mood is ripe for uprisings in the streets, blossoming worker cooperatives, new community commons, and wild carnivalesque festivals dedicated to freedom, sustainability, and love. More than half a million people died needlessly from Covid in the US — powerfully demonstrating the failure of mainstream institutions to protect basic health and safety. The power structure only really cares about corporate power and greed. And Covid is only the tip of the iceberg — how much more of the American Dream can we take in the face of systemic racism, climate collapse and billionaires getting richer while millions face eviction?
For those who can get the vaccine, there is finally light at the end of the tunnel — although it is hard to feel too happy because the legacy of colonialism means the global South may not see relief for years.
Now is the time to organize what will come next — on a decentralized, non-hierarchical, basis in every city, every small town, every neighborhood and in each social scene. As society reopens, we don’t want to go back to normal since normal wasn’t working. Everyone’s exhausted by zoom, fear, distance learning, isolation, loneliness and lack of touch — all our collective pent-up energy is a powerful force. How sweet it will be to re-emerge to rebuild a world worth living in.
The system wants to set the agenda and trap us into a boring rat race for money, status and distraction. It can tolerate protest so long as they are limited to a cycle of reaction against the latest police shooting, oil spill or homeless camp raid.
So its crucial not to settle for crumbs when we need and deserve the whole pie. We need to say what we’re for. When we seize the initiative, frame the debate and pick the issue, we can win. Where the system focuses on competition, status, property, laws, technology, conformity and obedience, the world we’re struggling for is about treating each other with caring and kindness, living meaningful and pleasurable lives, and protecting the earth and each other from harm. Good values and humanistic goals and priorities are ultimately more powerful than laws and organizational structures.
Let’s organize fun, free stuff together — less gig work and more giggling. The pandemic has concentrated power in corporate and government hands — so a key value in the reawakening times is decentralization with communities making their own decisions. Did anyone else notice that the pandemic forced more plastic into the world with take-out food and lots of disposable stuff to avoid germs? What can we do to get rid of plastic altogether?
The pandemic also underlined how we’re small and vulnerable to natural forces — the takeaway is the need to respect the earth and defend it from the industrial machine. Our lives and health are fragile — it’s important to stay present with those around you and live in the moment. After so much isolation there’s a greater awareness right now of how much we all need each other — so let’s build alternative community institutions based on mutual aid, cooperation and sharing: housing collectives, underground venues, community gardens, artists’ warehouses, tool lending libraries, free stores, bike kitchens, health clinics. Some things people did during the pandemic like home baking, outdoor dining, DIY crafts, community sing-alongs, etc. are worth keeping and expanding.
Building back better is going to take creativity, bravery and moxie — and in particular your involvement and dreams. Revival – rejuvenation – renewal – recovery!