My dear friends, I want to express something in a loving way that I think may be unclear.
Keep in mind that it is because I respect you all so deeply that I even considered writing this. If you think this is personally targeted, it is not. Nearly everyone I know has shared some little bit or other. I know so many of you are brilliant brilliant human beings, and this is not an effort to undermine you in any way.
A cluster of good-natured and quite well-meaning friends and family members have been, to find and keep some joy in our dark moment, sharing tales of dolphins and swans in the Venice canals. About translucent waters, and clear skies in factory towns and big cities. About elephants drunk on corn wine nestling in flower-beds. We all love a story of pollution reduction, especially the tall, animal-featured variety. These images and stories have been truly enchanting. However, there is something more complex at play when we express our delight in these tales.
This whimsy is being attained through the unimaginable suffering and death of so many. As of the time of my writing this, there have been almost 50,000 Coronavirus deaths, and almost a million cases, worldwide. Those watching the progression of this virus believe it has not peaked in the United States, yet. People are frightened and overwhelmed. I myself am frightened and overwhelmed. Which is why I want to deliberately convey to everybody in my life in one fell swoop that it is okay to hold on to some whimsy, but please understand that when you express this on a social scale, you may consider the depth of this argument.
Clean air is being traded for the lives of our loved ones, our extended families, our global community. But it is more complicated than this, because those that suffer under the most degraded life conditions are those that will pay the higher tolls. This means, it is not just death, but the death of the poorest sections of society. Those without access to basic needs like healthcare, shelter, food and water. And this is a wedge of society that is disproportionately composed of minorities.
The suggestion that we have to sacrifice some contingent of our population to keep our economy moving is an ecofascist expression of the order of our society. Ecofascism is the sacrifice of individual humans for the benefit of the ecological whole (Zimmerman). For example, when a political figure says we should return to work during a global pandemic (Levitz) in a bid to stabilize the economy, they have decided that the exchange of goods is of higher value than the citizens that should be considered under their purvey. And they know this. They do not consider the individuation of humanity, rather the net cost of human casualty.
It is treasonous against our survival to ignore that entire specific swathes of our society must be, now explicitly, sacrificed to ensure our way of life under late capitalism. If we are going to keep with the hopeful attainment of whimsy, then consider ours a moralistic fable. We are living in an Ursula K. Le Guin story. We are ignoring the perpetual misery of the most vulnerable to have beautiful horses with ribbons in their tails.
I think it is important to note that I am not so good as to believe I can lecture anyone about ethics. I have been equally delighted at the thought of seeing clearly through the Venetian Canals. After a month and a half of being barely able to breathe most nights, I am ecstatic about nearly anything that resembles the outside world. However, while the power imposing this situation in our time may be a virus, we cannot laud these changes without looking at the structural consequences of such an expression.
Hold on to your whimsy. But, keep a light in your mind lit for what is sacrificed. When the virus moves on, and we are all facing one another on the other side of loss, what world do you want to build? We have lost hope in our time. We are letting down our children, our families, our friends, ourselves, who we have inundated with whimsical tales of the glory of goodness. Goodness holds no glory unless it is shared. All religion teaches this lesson. How can we reconstruct ourselves to offer the hope of a brilliant blue sky without imposing this continued sacrifice?
Works Cited and Related Reading
Daly, Natasha. (2020). “Fake animal news abounds on social media as coronavirus upends life”. National Geographic. Web.
Jackson, Shirley. (1948) “The Lottery” The New Yorker.
Le Guin, Ursula K. (1973). “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” New Dimensions, Volume 3.
Levitz, Eric. (24 March, 2020) “No, Trump Can’t Revive the Economy Through Human Sacrifice”. NY Mag. Web.
Zimmerman, Michael E. (2008). “Ecofascism”. In Taylor, Bron R. (ed.). Encyclopedia of Religion and Nature, Volume 1. London, UK: Continuum. pp. 531–532.