Apr 28, 2020
By Jack Wikse and Susan Lamont, founders of Conversations Around the Fires
Anyone who now denies we are one interdependent human species across borders on mother earth is not alive to the unprecedented moment we share today.
After the 2017 fires, several Sonoma County residents came together to consider how crisis could create an opportunity to understand our responsibility to the earth and all those who share life upon it. We gathered people to discuss new ways to respond to the intertwined crises of climate change, the economy and abuse of power.
Better solutions were needed then, but were ignored. In the face of a global pandemic, we can’t make that mistake again. A more compassionate and empathetic world is needed as never before.
President Trump says we need to be on a “war footing” to combat the “foreign enemy” coronavirus. Since WWII, the U.S. has had a war economy. It might be said that all that unites the U.S. is military spending, spread judiciously across the states, our culture wallowing in violence and nationalist fear mongering. We instinctively use war metaphors when faced with a problem. We fight wars on drugs, poverty and terrorism with little to show for it.The war analogy enables us to overlook the harmful effects on people, just as actual combat does.
U.S. wars and preparation for war do more destruction to life on this planet than any other single source. U.S. sanctions on “enemy” countries create conditions which spread the coronavirus. These policies create more danger than safety.
During this virus-induced pause, dolphins are returning to Italian shores and the air in India is more breathable. This reduction in fossil fuel consumption gives us an opportunity to reflect on our way of life and our unexamined assumptions about a healthy economy. A perpetual war economy is not healthful.
Some say we are now “on hold,” as if we could return to some “normal” healthy state. A culture that has bankrupted itself on fruitless foreign wars and continues to militarize the planet while enriching the global 1% is not a sane or healthy society. We are now being confined to our households, facing catastrophe, and how will we manage? The main teaching of the Abrahamic religions is that ethical behavior and money making don’t go together. We’ve lost this distinction. We will need to develop a new concept of economics.
Let’s treat the virus as something to be understood. It came about in an unregulated toxic marketplace. Let’s stop worshiping the market and honor compassion, This cannot mean “America First.” We must stop making war and begin fostering sustainable communities. Let’s demand the President invite a global cessation of hostilities, an Easter cease fire (not a return to work) to give space for the world to heal. If we lead, others will follow. Let this be a new beginning of a paradise built in hell.
As we wrote this, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres called for an immediate global ceasefire saying, “End the sickness of war and fight the disease that is ravaging our world…..That is what our human family needs.…” Let’s make this more than a pause and rethink the ways in which we interact as people and as nations.
In our sheltering in place, let us reflect that, as we emerge from this catastrophe, we can look around and reevaluate our unsustainable way of life.The rule of the 1% has confronted us with the real line of death—the destruction of our planet.We have an unprecedented opportunity to foster communities of peace and justice. Our prejudice toward war is being revealed. The political theorist Hannah Arendt wrote: “In every historical crisis, it is the prejudices that begin to crumble first and can no longer be relied upon.”
It should not have taken a pandemic to wake us to our interdependence, but now that we are here, let’s make the most of this opportunity.
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