To say that what we’re going through right now is intense would be an understatement. And denying that we’re all thinking about the post-COVID-19 period would be a lie. We see more and more articles mentioning the “return to normal”… but what kind of normal are we talking about, can you tell me?
Because let’s be honest here, is it normal that 2,153 people hold more money than 60% of humanity? Is it normal that about 2 billion people do not have access to healthy food in the world? And even on a more personal level, is it really normal that when I feel upset, I am overwhelmed by a desire to shop?
Julio Vincent Gambuto‘s article “Prepare for the Ultimate Gaslighting”, addressing the huge marketing campaign that awaits us at COVID-19, made me think a lot. Because clearly, there is what we considered “normal” before this pandemic — and it wasn’t at all (!!!) — and what we should consider “normal” if we want to live in harmony with each other and within the limits of our planet. These are two very different things.
One thing is certain, those who benefit from the current system are preparing with great effort to nudge us into this “back to normal”. Billions of dollars are being (and will be) invested in stimulus packages. Lobbyists are (and will be) working hard to get public funds into their backyards and we will be bombarded with all kinds of incentives to convince us to consume at the same rhythm we used to. We will see the brightest, the shiniest communication strategies unfold before our eyes, and it will probably be imaginative, certainly ingenious. Yes, there will be advertising in the traditional sense of the word, but there will inevitably be much more than that. As Gambuto mentioned, we will be inundated with creative memes, tempting Facebook publications, inspiring Instagram photos. These experts won’t be selling you a product — we’re not talking about amateurs here — they’ll be selling you a vision, backed by a well-thought-out idea of “getting back to normal” in all its most sexy aspects! Capitalism with a capital C, ladies and gentlemen!
But let’s face it, we probably all want to go back to our beloved routine, to our “normality”, rather than sticking to our screens, reading an endless stream of articles on the human tragedies caused by the COVID-19. Back to normal will probably feel very comforting. So, I began to ask myself a lot of questions. What is the role of Greenpeace in all this? What is my role as Head of Media? But also as a woman, as a worker, as a mother, as a citizen …
Full disclosure here, I’m no different than anyone else … I personally can’t wait to get back to my yoga class and get myself a chai tea before I get to the office (with my reusable cup of course). Our need for security will be real, and it will be powerful, making us vulnerable. And what could be safer than doing what we’ve always done?
But what to do when “business as usual” is deeply wrong?
The cornerstone of our economy allows the powerful of this world to take what they want without thinking about others. In particular, this has allowed the extractive industries to prioritize profits at the expense of Indigenous rights, climate, biodiversity and so on.
If everyone consumed as Canadians do, we would need 4.8 planets.
We do not have that luxury.
Yet 4 million Canadians live in homes that have difficulty putting food on the table, including 1.15 million children. How can we explain this situation when Canada is a G8 country?
And then, almost overnight, “normal” stopped. And, for a second, our heart stopped and we got slapped in the face.
As long as I can remember, we’ve been told that the economy must keep growing, for the good of all of us. And here we are, on a mandatory break, forcing us to think about how we live, how we consume, how we consider people who work on the “frontlines”. We are now in a position to acknowledge the flaws in our system, to consider the limits of our social safety nets, to see the extent of inequalities. Hospitals all over the world are under-equipped. Doctors are faced with heartbreaking choices. We are saying goodbye to loved ones through nurses we have never even met. Countless people find themselves unemployed and anxious, unable to close their eyes at night thinking about the bills that will not stop pilling in. For a moment, the veil that normally covers these flaws in our system has been lifted. The images that are burned into our retinas right now are not going away and I think they should not. Instead, they should push us towards making the best version of ourselves a reality.
The time has come to reclaim, repair, reimagine, rethink, rebuild, remake, reprogram, reinvent … our world, our economy and ourselves. Let’s not go back to “normal.” Let’s leap into the future by reimagining the universe of possibilities. By reprogramming the rules of our economic model. By reinventing the world the way we want it to be. And this is precisely where I see a vital role for Greenpeace, or should I say, for all of us.
We are a generation of makers, creators, innovators, dreamers, artists, activists, nurturers and caregivers. We have the capacity to change things. We have seen during this crisis the beauty that we are capable of with the emergence of a multitude of solidarity movements. We have the power to embody the change we want to see at home by choosing how we spend our time as a family, what we watch, what we listen to, what we eat, etc. We have the power to make a difference. In our communities through the organizations we are involved in, the stories we share and the events we witness.
But we can also do it as a society, by getting involved and by demanding economic, recovery plans that are right for us. By advocating for a new just and green economy. Equality is not impossible. Justice and fairness are not out of our reach. A green transition is not a dream. However, we must be aware of what is coming and be very clear about what we want, and what we no longer want. Let’s not allow corporate executives profit from the pandemic or keep us locked in the consumerist status quo.
As terrible as this crisis is — and understand me, it is — a return to “normal” should not be an option. For we must seize the moment and define a new “normal”.
And this is the new model my colleagues and myself are aspiring to build with you. I want to invite you to leave your ideas in the comment section below in regards to what you think should change to challenge the status quo. 👇