In this moment of pause we might find new ways…

In this moment of pause we might find new ways…

For days now, we have watched waves of panic and fear wash across television screens, social media, conversations with friends and family members, hospitals and in our own internal spaces. Deep-seated feelings of grief and sadness have permeated our interactions, whether openly acknowledged or not.

We have seen how the cracks in our systems and structures are amplified in times of drastic change and global “crisis” – cracks that leave particular groups of people perpetually and intentionally disadvantaged based hierarchies of worth and value that result in disproportionate and disparate material realities. We are seeing the effects of COVID-19 on Indigenous communities living under boil water advisories, housing shortages and inadequate health care infrastructure. We see how families living in poverty or marginalized by low income have heightened worries about job loss, food insecurity and possible eviction. We are seeing frontline workers in hospitals, pharmacies and grocery stores, as well as other essential service providers literally putting their lives on the line every day to keep the rest of us as safe and well as possible. We are hearing about the fears of those with health complications who are worried that they may not see their families again or who can’t get the medical treatments they need in time because our hospitals are completely overwhelmed by patients infected with COVID-19. We are hearing about people who cannot self-isolate in prisons and in shelters, and about homeless people who have now lost access to public toilets and showers. We are also hearing about the rise of domestic abuse, child abuse and mental health challenges because of physical isolation. We are hearing about students without access to technology in a time where that seems to be one of the only channels of formal education. And, we are hearing about the people who have already died from this pandemic and the grief that their families and friends must be experiencing.

We are also seeing the ways that fear is causing some of us to hoard, to take more than our share, to selfishly ignore calls for physical distancing when we are able to, or to deny the potential effects of this virus, despite what our public officials are pleading with us to do for our collective welfare. We are seeing the ways in which we are desperately trying to distract ourselves and escape from what feels, at times, like a very bad dream. I see and feel the pull of capitalism’s drive to productivity and efficiency and the allure of wanting to cross off more items on our to-do lists with all this “extra time.” We also see parents and educators worried about “lost time” in school and trying to put together elaborate homeschooling plans for their children. We are trying desperately to hold on to past systems and structures, to what we knew, to what felt safe – even though that sense of safety is an illusion, and it is reserved for a select few.

What if we let go of trying to recreate these broken systems? What if this is a time to slow down, to be silent, to go inward?

What might be possible if we redirect our efforts away from recreating broken systems, and instead, allow ourselves to grieve how these broken systems have kept us separate and fragmented, creating hierarchies of domination and the very need for domination itself? What if this rupture in time and space, this global pause, this automatic reset, is an invitation into different ways of being, thinking and living in ourselves, with one another and with our environment?

This moment invites us to recognize and value our inherent interconnectedness, spiritual wisdom that has long existed in global Indigenous communities. It is an invitation to blur the lines between self and other, between us and them, between winners and losers. While cracks in our systems have always been our greatest vulnerability as a collective, some of us have chosen not to see that. We have intentionally turned away from the injustices. This moment is inviting us to see that our suffering and our healing is deeply interconnected and that our society is only as strong as those who have been abandoned and neglected all along.

What if we are being invited to embrace the uncertainty, the loss, the ambiguity, the complexities and the grief?  What if we were to embrace, rather than resist, this global pause?

In this moment of pause, we might hear the Earth speaking to us and telling us that she will no longer take our abuse. We might see how the cracks in a capitalist system have created haves and have nots and might feel how strongly our worth is tied to our productivity and profit. We might even allow these cracks to break us open and to surface the individual and collective fears, insecurities and pain that we have buried for far too long, causing such unbelievable levels of denial, dehumanization and violence.

Might we find new ways to create community, to live in deep relation with one another, and to celebrate and honour one another?

Or, we can turn away from this immense invitation and find new and slippery ways to uphold and perpetuate colonialism, white supremacy, capitalism and heteropatriarchy.  There are companies and individuals that are viewing this global pandemic as an opportunity to profit. There are education systems that are viewing the move to online learning as a replacement for the human connection and deep learning that classrooms and educators provide. There are populations who will continue to be ignored, dismissed and forgotten, and new populations that may emerge.

This is the choice we are being presented with. It is the choice we have always been presented with. And maybe, just maybe, we can loosen our grip on the old systems and the old ways of being long enough to open up possibilities for different ways of being that are profoundly responsible and loving to ourselves, to one another, and to the Earth.

By Vidya Shah, an Assistant Professor within Faculty of Education at York University