Suzanne Harrington: Choose life — not a return to the old ways

Suzanne Harrington: Choose life — not a return to the old ways

As the corporatocracy continues to freak out because its minions are all at home with their families, author and activist Arundhati Roy calls the pandemic “a portal”. A door in the back of a wardrobe to a new way of being. A hole in the space time continuum. 

The question is – do we have the collective drive and vision to step through, to create a new way forward?

What is ‘going back to normal’ anyway? Stressful commutes, then paying strangers huge amounts to spend the day with our tiny children as we spend the day elsewhere earning the money to pay them, and to pay for our overpriced housing and our overpriced lives, as we create wealth for others. 

Kidding ourselves that it’s all about choice – via aisles and aisles of almost identical goods.

Do we need 45 types of pasta sauce? A new phone every year? Fast fashion? Infinite choice, around the clock? We are conditioned to obey the market, to numb out our stress by endless consumption, just as we were once conditioned to obey the church. Hate your job? Buy this. 

Hate your life? Buy that. Signify your status and your sense of self through bought objects. We shop therefore we are.

Except we’re not. Now that the capitalist machine has ground to a screeching halt through something no human power could have predicted or prevented – a big fat viral spanner – we have been forced to stop, and to reflect. Do we want our old lives back?

The people who want us to want our old lives back are those who profit from it. Those who are desperate for capitalism to reopen, and keep going. How about no. How about – with apologies to Trainspotting – choosing life? 

Choose less cash and more time. Choose your kids and your other half. Choose your dog. Choose less hours at work and more for yourself. Choose second hand, not second homes. Choose slow food. Choose the ordinary pleasures, presented afresh to us: skies empty of planes and full of birdsong, local travel, the company of friends – oh, the company of friends. Choose people, rather than the atomisation created by our slavery to things.

Because what do we really miss? Each other. Everything else is just filler.

We all have lists of non-human things we miss at the moment – haircuts and coffee shop coffee feature highly – but all the other stuff like pubs and dinners and sports are just enhanced ways of being with each other. Being together. 

Asked to draw what they miss most, children tend to draw grandparents. Has anyone drawn a shopping centre? An office block? A motorway? Unlikely, unless they own it, and want their drones back.

The pandemic is not just a portal, but a warm-up act for the real killer – climate change. 

We have been shown that it’s possible to do life differently, that we can live more sustainably on less – so do we do it? Or do we continue our deluded march to self induced extinction?

 

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