What will we save as a global community?

With the spring bloom of 2020 comes a new mantra of survival that many of us find subconsciously woven into every breath, every bright morning, and every baby step we take towards the future. All over the world, the children paint rainbows on the window to signify that even after the wildest storms, great beauty is born. Mythology tells us that it’s always darkest just before the dawn, and in every corner of the corona wrenched world we see glimmers of hope pop up through the cracks of community. The pandemic has stopped us in our tracks. Unable to cross borders, go to work, peruse the aisles, see our friends, and indulge in the cultural joys of society we are forced to step into The Great Pause.

While it has been a tragic time that has ripped through the fabric of some communities more than others, it has also shone a spotlight on our vulnerability as a species, how perhaps there have been moments where we took our presence here for granted, and how our comfort zones and safety nets are perhaps a little more fabricated and flimsy than we may have thought. While, this can feel discomforting, it is also an opportunity to weigh up what happens to the status quo.

It Starts With Truth…

Some have called the pandemic the great equalizer, a virus that doesn’t discriminate and one that unites us in our vulnerability as it does in our humanity. The statistics prove that this isn’t true, that poorer communities have suffered more loss of life than their wealthier counterparts, that BAME communities have lost more lives. That this disease, far from uniting us under a world banner, has cracked open the chasms of privilege in our society. We have to recognize that no longer can we turn a blind eye to the injustices of the world. As we enter a new dawn, we have to force ourselves to gaze into the eyes of these hard questions and to decide, when it’s time to rebuild – what should be razed to the ground? What should be saved? And how can we better protect and nurture our world and our communities to ensure a better future for all?

It Follows With a Shift…

It has been eye-popping to witness certain behaviors from large conglomerates as capitalism fights for its own sense of survival. Multi-billionaires like Branson asking for government bailouts rather than sell off even a smidge of their assets to pay their hard-working staff. It’s not a pretty look and it’s certainly not going to fortune favor and earn its stripes in the new world if there was any justice.

While millions face employment and smaller independent industries run the risk of bleeding out, this article from GQ points out that America’s billionaires have been increasing their net-worth by tens of millions of dollars. Jeff Bezos’s Amazon stock has skyrocketed a staggering 30 percent already this year, whereas the company itself has earned just criticism for its lack of safeguarding for warehouse staff, many of whom are expected to work at an impossible speed.

Even ethical choices aside, we start to dabble in new possibilities when it comes to the choices of where and how we spend our money. We suddenly see that it is our purses that hold the power. Those who have struggled with supermarket queues may find themselves loosening their grip on the multinationals in favor of the local vegetable box delivery service. Instead of battling it out for the last bottle of milk – society has seen the return of the doorstep milkman, and with these simple everyday shifts on our baseline products, we start to apply the same method of thinking to our larger heart-felt purchases.

It Means Recognizing We Can Never Go Back…

Even pre-pandemic, we were starting to see a bigger shift towards more sustainable and ethical consumer choices. As we tired of seeing high-rise Hilton’s pop up along virginal coastline, as our skies choked on the fumes, as the Amazon burned, and as factories in Bangladesh collapsed, there seemed to be a growing sense of unease – a slow ticking timebomb beneath all of our beds – the knowledge that things can’t go on like this. Then there were children taking up arms – angry and on world platforms telling us how much we were screwing up. Forest fires raged through Australia. And then before we could take a breath; a new virus swept in like a tsunami.

But before that last wave, we were starting to see new language pop up to call out imperialist capitalism. Eco travel was on the rise, the beauty of boutique was overtaking traditional five-star style, we were seeing a pattern of experiential over the material. But along with these positive tweaks, it wasn’t all roses – we were already seeing the rise in fractured politics and a growing distrust of politicians and media. We were becoming an even more broken and fragmented world of opposing forces.

As countries start to emerge from lockdown, blinking into the sun, it seems many governments are keen to ‘get back to business’ and of course, we crave the comfort of familiarity in unfamiliar times. We long for those shopping trips, the hourly grind of the working day, and the chance to see and spend. But what are we seeking really? It isn’t the cogs of the machine we crave, but the ache for seemingly simpler days and to feel connected. If we stripped back to our authentic selves, do we genuinely want to return to those Wolf on Wall Street ethics?

Now is not the time to get sidetracked by longing for this sense of normalcy, as I mentioned in my last piece Stillness as an Act of Messy Unravelling, we can never go back, there is no great return, there is a sidestep or there is forward. And as this pandemic has proven, community is truly what matters most of all.

It Means Reclaiming Self-Sufficient Power…

Moving forward, now more than ever, it’s time for that revolution and it starts – not with sword or shield but with the simple power of spending habits and taking the economy back for ourselves. This starts with etching out our own value systems and finding companies that echo that sentiment, not in a gauzy thinly veiled marketing way, but in a way that is authentic and true.

Luxury companies have been hailed for their efforts to help fight corona – we have heard the gushing around Louis Vuitton stitching facemasks and Tiffany & Co pledging a million to help the fight. Of course, every bit matters but for a company with an equity in the billions, and for another company whose unpaid workforce is truly doing the labor – is it a case of credit where credits due or is my cynicism simply seeping through?

Our hearts may be more warmed by tales of the local small-scale deli bringing beautiful packed lunches to keyworkers children who still have to go to school. Or perhaps we are more likely to feel that soft lump in our throat from tiny Hackney sewing studios staying up around the clock to curate protective gowns for nurses and doctors.

For the former example, it’s easy to throw money at a problem when you are sitting on a gold mine – especially if it makes for great marketing. For the latter, its actually getting your own hands dirty and risking a loss for the good of society – even while your government fails.

When we rise like a phoenix from the ashes, whose pockets do we fill? Do we want to give those conglomerates the cash to buy another tax haven island and flick pennies at the next global crisis? Or do we want to pump resources and our support into family owned businesses and ethical endeavors so we can be reminded that we have the power to be self-sufficient communities, because when it comes to the crunch, we cannot rely on those conglomerates to reach out their hand and help us. Because, simply put, that chasm is too big and too wide.

And With a Pair of Shears We Have the Skill…

Small is strong, community is courage, and togetherness is making choices that pull each other up. Through our commerce choices we can honor family legacy at a time when so many families are being pulled apart. Through our decision-making process we can finally forget the dirty feeling that accompanies fast cheap consumerism and replace it with the simmer of slow luxury because this time has taught us the pleasure that comes with patience and how joyous things can feel after a pause. Through our support, we can celebrate the creativity and heartfelt commitment of the artisan. Those who derive deep joyous pleasure from creating the things we love and need.

We can fall in love with the things we choose to place in our world because they are no longer marred with the stains and subconscious guilt that comes with sweatshops, mass warehouses and exploited workers. We can know that our things have been made from choice, pleasure, and a marrying of the heart and the hands.

There’s been another parasitic virus running rampant all this time. The root of capitalism has grown rotten, the fruit withering on the vine. The money tree is sick with corruption, exploitation, and zero hesitation to throw the vulnerable under the bus while the rich get richer. What do you do with a sick tree? Do you pull it up by its root and stem? Do you set it alight and watch it burn?

Or do you start gently to prune the branches and pour nutrient rich goodness into its soul. Our world is one worth saving, we have been letting it rot and burn, but we all have our own pair of shears and we can all take responsibility for one tiny stem or one small branch.

We may not be arborists but we know that sick things need nourishment in the right places. Find the source, start to nourish, and decide which part of the tree you want to nurture – the hollow branch that strangles the tree until it crashes down to the ground? Or the branch that will bloom sweetly and give apples that will feed a whole community.

 

Picture: Third Millenial AllianceTo’ak Chocolate: Saving Heirloom Nacional Cacao from extinction, one of the last pure source of cacao in the world…