“ Every time is a good time if we know what to do with it.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson
I don’t need to remind you of the list of catastrophes in our face. So much of which would have been preventable had we been more alert, aware, caring for the future. So much suffering could have—and still can—be avoided if we just toned down the greed, the power-mania, the excuses we make to be bad versions of our possible self.
But when it comes to the “isms,” there is a sliver of understanding as to why people might resist or outrage change their attitude and their practices. Though we would hope for a moral backbone and a rise to their religion’s ethic, let’s face it— we’re constantly disappointing ourselves and others. And the main reason why? In short:
We benefit from it.
Take racism. By any objective standards, white folks had no motivation whatsoever to accept the downfall of slavery because they benefitted so enormously. Got rich off of other’s labor, got to imagine themselves as God’s chosen because of skin color, got to beat someone if they were angry or rape someone if they were horny. And so when slavery officially ended, they did everything they could to keep both the practices and attitudes going. Read A New Form of Slavery and The New Jim Crow for just two examples of how white folks in power manipulated the system so they could still get rich off the unpaid labor of others. To look slavery in the face and see what’s morally reprehensible, to reject the ways of one’s antecedents, to have to build their identity based on their actual character rather than some trumped-up (the right word there!) notion of racial superiority, to actually have to do the work oneself takes a special kind of courage and determination and movement toward empathy, understanding, remorse and compassion. Not impossible, mind you. Some (not enough) have done it. But most are too lazy or fearful or ignorant or stubbornly holding on to their unearned privilege. And so it goes on. And on. And on.
In most other ism’s, you see the same dynamic at work. Concern for the poor? Hell, no, I got mine and of course, I deserve 30 vintage cars and my house in the Hamptons. Women’s rights? Well, ain’t no one gonna depose this King of His Castle! War? Well, we need their oil and they worship the wrong god and what’s a little casualty statistic in the face of my busy day? Sure, go ahead! You get the idea.
Now climate change comes a little closer to “we’re all it in it together!” But still, the person in Nebraska isn’t worried about rising sea levels and the guy living high in the hill with his own helicopter poised to escape thinks he can afford to keep ignoring it all. As can the folks in the businesses that keep creating the toxic wastes or emissions that eat the ozone layer and profit from it.
And let’s face it. Some weird quirk in the human psyche seems to thrive on needing an enemy to vilify. In my childhood, it was the Communists, especially the Russians. Then came the Muslims and now it’s…… the Democrats?
In the face of this sad fact, I’ve often thought that what we needed to unify us, to make us realize that we’re way overdue to start working together…all of us… is some kind of alien invasion from Mars. One common enemy. Humanity against Martians. Let’s go, team!!!!!
And guess what? That common enemy is here. It’s called the Corona Virus. It doesn’t care what country you’re in, how much money you make, what religion you practice. It doesn’t want to know your sexual preference, your gender, your political affiliation. You’re a human host and it’s out to invade you and the only possible defense? All human beings putting aside their stupefying perceived differences and saying, “Let’s go, team!! We gotta beat this!!!” And if and when we do, finally realizing, “Hey, it was fun to work together and all the people (pay attention, Fox News!) who brainwashed me to hate you didn’t know what they were talking about and there might be something else down the pike— another virus, the melting icecaps, the last desperate stand of hateful power-mad dictators— that we’ll need to beat down. So let’s keep together!”
So sign up now for Team Humanity and let’s get to work! It’s the only way to make sense of what to do with the times we have been given.
And who knows? Maybe the Martians are coming for a visit!