People keep asking, “What is this pandemic supposed to be teaching us?” Not sure. But whatever it is, we have been given some time to stop and think about it. People insist that it’s time to go back now. We seem to be in such a hurry. I understand the practical, financial necessities. But have we learned anything through this?
I keep hearing “This is the new normal.” New? Normal? Alberta is making plans to expand open pit coal mining. There are still plans to construct pipelines. Investments are being made in more oil exploration and continued drilling. Sure, wonderfully, we can see that the pause in industrialization has visibly changed satellite photos of polluted skies. But that only reflects a slowdown in emissions into the atmosphere, not extractions from the atmosphere.
Meanwhile, poverty continues; the poor and people of color continue to suffer disproportionate consequences; fire season has started with firefighters remaining limited in numbers and training because of COVID-19; and locusts ravage farms in Kenya, Somalia, and Ethiopia. Neither new; nor normal.
Someone has said, “Never waste a crisis!” Please, let’s stop and think. Let’s turn around!
Umair Haque in his blog May 25
(https://eand.co/if-the-future-is-like-the-present-our-civilization-will-collapse-f05b2bce2d3e), reminds his readers that 70,000 years ago our first ancestors left Africa, expanded across Asia, moved north through Europe, across Siberia and expanded south into the Americas. Through the millennia, families became clans and tribes and, during the last fifteen thousand years, civilizations; civilized people warring over land, power, wealth, resources and slaves.
According to Mr. Haque, the West explored the world and discovered the “new world.” They weren’t the first, of course. Asians came east to the Americas. The Nordics came west and south into the Americas long before the Spaniards and Portuguese. Whatever the language, the behavior was the same. Discover meant colonize.
Humanity has always been about expansion. Haque calls this expansion mindset the “predatory-exploitative mindset.” Haque posits that human expansion will peak in 2050. Haque argues that these “turbulent” times, already marked by violence over resources peaked with the violence of two world wars, but that violence has continued with unending conflict in nation after nation.
Haque writes about the prevalence of fascism. The world is stagnating, and with so much “poverty in the midst of plenty,” rage and despair continue to expand. It’s the predatory-exploitative mindset at its worst when we reach the inevitable ends of a planet with limited land, limited water, limited energy but unlimited fear and despair.
So what’s next? Will humanity by 2050 have reached the point of maturity and transcend these destructive drives? Or will the next page turned in the story of humanity be a regressive story – the story to be read now backwards, from civilization “back to caves and spears”?
Haque writes, “a mature species is a wise, courageous and gentle thing, with dignity, justice, truth and plenitude for all… a species that is something more like a guardian and protector of all things noble and good and beautiful – whether democracy, dignity, truth, justice, or life itself.”
I’ve read this part of the story before. God placed humankind on the planet to till the earth and keep it. The First Testament prophets challenged the empires when they were pursuing the predatory -exploitative mindset (though they didn’t call it that then) and pleaded passionately to return to the ways of justice and peace.
Jesus invited followers to consider the lilies of the field and the birds of the air; to ask God for daily bread and then to share it generously; to find life, not by taking it from others, but by giving it away.
Haque describes our time as a time of fear and despair, leading to rage. Jesus said time and time again, “Do not be afraid,” rather, love and trust.
But that’s not the end of the story. If we turn the page – if we peek way to the end of the story and then come back to where we are – maybe this time of isolation will invite community. Maybe as we take this time to think, we will find the time to love. And a “new normal” will mean divine justice and compassionate possibilities….