If 2020 had a catch-phrase, it could easily be, “in these uncertain times.” While the year has so far been punctuated by a staggering stream of destabilizing events including everything from the Australian Bush Fires to Brexit, to a Global Pandemic and a Rally for Justice in the face of unchecked police brutality, in many ways, these moments are simply the materialization of long-standing, oft-ignored social issues: Climate change, the global embrace of political conservatism, poor access to health care, and long-standing racial injustices, to name a few.
So we are left with the question, have our times always been uncertain, or are these events in and of themselves are actually continuations of trends that have been threatening the fabric of our society for as long as that society has functioned? Did an event such as the global pandemic really introduce all of these new societal ills, or has it simply exposed and amplified pre-existing issues? What cycles and systems are reaching a breaking point and how can they be reimagined – and perhaps most importantly – do we have the strength and conviction to see them for what they are, and work to be the change?
COVID as a Mirror
The coronavirus has transformed the landscape of our world in a matter of months and yet, in many ways, the pandemic has only exacerbated the vulnerability of the most at-risk Americans. While COVID may have been the final straw, it didn’t create these economic and health crises on its own. The pandemic has simply served to magnify the systemic injustices that have long-plagued our society.
For minority citizens of our society, the threat of these systems is amplified by their racist nature, evident in the steady flow of African-American deaths at the hands of police which are now being hotly protested across the country.
What started in Minneapolis has turned into a global outcry fueled by protestors of all races, ages, and religions. These long-standing issues are finally taking center-stage in a tone that feels, perhaps for the first time, adequately urgent.
How Crisis Amplifies Wealth Disparities
Prior to the arrival of Coronavirus, the US was engaging in an intense and impassioned ideological debate through the forum of the Democratic Presidential Primary. As the pandemic abruptly paused both the ideological and literal democratic debate, the issues themselves began to overtake the conversation around them.
After months of conceptually debating the premise of private insurance versus Medicare for All, 30 million Americans swiftly lost access to the health insurance policies provided by their employer amid mass layoffs due to the pandemic. After endless debate around the ethical question, “should billionaires exist,” Jeff Bezos took his place as the world’s first trillionaire, reportedly generating a profit of $24 Billion in the first two months of Coronavirus. Meanwhile, Amazon workers contracted the illness in large numbers and went on strike for safe working conditions while the rest of us asked, “why didn’t Amazon pay any US federal income taxes in 2018 leaving lower and middle-class taxpayers to pick up the bill?” This series of events seemed to serve as a surreal amplification of how the lower and middle economic classes make disproportionate tax contributions in order to offset major corporate tax breaks, perpetuating the cycle of inequality and furthering the already astronomical wealth divide.
Unmasking Patterns of Systemic Racism
The coronavirus has revealed how the most oppressed in our society are exponentially affected when disaster strikes. The African-American community remains so disproportionately affected by the virus that the data is impossible to contest.
The answers to why the black community suffered so much worse at the hands of COVID-19, (lack of access to healthcare, greater employment in critical but risky essential-worker roles, disparities in safe housing) exposes how minorities are asked to bear the brunt of the nation’s labor without affordable health care, housing and higher education, thereby predisposing them to higher morbidity and mortality rates.
Systemic injustices like the disproportionate ratio of minorities in the prison system and huge racial disparities found in deaths linked to pregnancy have consistently pointed to the racist nature of modern societal structures; however, the inherent prejudice of the US law enforcement has taken center-stage once again with the most-recent murder of African-American man at the hands of a police officer who, until nation-wide protests erupted, went uncharged.
In short, minority communities continue to face systemic racism and poverty escalation on a massive scale, and the economic fall out of the Coronavirus pandemic is about to exacerbate that reality while rapidly demoting the lower and middle class to the ranks of those already left behind.
Main Street vs. Wall Street
Recent reports on unemployment claims for May 2020, have revealed the US is on track to reach 20% unemployment in the coming weeks, a figure more than double the highest previous level since the Great Depression of 1929.
In addition to mass unemployment, the closing of local store-fronts and restaurants threatens the existence of small businesses, while whole industries like travel and hospitality have ground to a halt. Millions of Americans are too financially vulnerable and unstable to participate in the economy that is disproportionately benefiting the top 10% who already own 90% of the wealth, perpetuating a trend of inequality eerily similar to what we saw a hundred years ago.
But even here, the coronavirus pandemic illustrates the inherent structural inequalities of our economy. The stock market has now almost fully recovered from its March lows, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose by more than 400 points in the same week curfews spread across the US following the murder of an unarmed black man, George Floyd by Minnesota police offers.
In a bewildering parallel, the US stock market continues to surge. The divide between Wall Street and Main Street has grown sharply, highlighting the increasing class divide.
To many this divide between the struggles of Main Street and the successes of Wall Street is an emblematic juxtaposition, unfolding in real-time, highlighting the increasing class divide and in the fight for ownership of economic benefits. One must ask oneself, who are the beneficiaries of Wall Street investments?
While the discord around current events is face-paced and cluttered, they are only symptoms of inherent, and long-standing foundational dysfunction in our society and the world at large. We are continually experiencing the same cyclical root inequalities as they spiral out in the form of more and more advanced and corrupt systems. There is evidence of rampant corruption and outright stealing from top to bottom and in all areas of our society, in government and in business. It seems that everyone is looking out only for themselves without regard for the less fortunate in our society, and a sense of community has been lost.
The Political Is the Personal
In the face of such a climate, is it possible to step away for a moment, from the details of day to day manifestations of these corrupt and entrenched systems and experience the root causes beneath them in a more direct and personal manner? Knowing that the individual’s consciousness is a microcosm for the macro-consciousness, ask yourself, “what work can I do to reform my own thinking for the good of the whole?”
Placing a heartfelt finger on your core beliefs and values can create a surge of confidence and energy that can super-charge your actions and motivations in unison with the ethics and actions of the like-minded community at large.
To touch in on these energies, ask yourself the following questions, and feel what arises:
- How do I feel about real political change? Am I attached to the status quo?
- Do I have an urge to create social change? Am I suppressing that urge in any way? Is there a fear or shame that is preventing me from action?
- What is important to me in a society? What do I want for myself as a citizen and can I extend that want for others?
- What rights and privileges are a given to me, that others might not experience? Do I genuinely want others to have those rights?
- Can I remember a time or moment where I truly felt a part of a community? What did it feel like? Was there security in trusting those around me?
- What does equality feel like to me? Have I experienced equality in other aspects of my life? How did that feel?
- What strikes me as particularly frustrating as an injustice in the world? Can I find a root cause for that injustice?
- Am I participating in my own democracy? Do I want to do more? What action have I been craving to take?
- What can I do to bring about change that is aligned with my ethics?
While personal transformation is key, as a collective, we are eager to move beyond “thoughts and prayers.” Here are some steps you can take to bring your commitment to social change to life.
Blueprint for Social Actions
- Become an active member of your community and get involved in local government. Educate yourself, organize for progressive candidates, volunteer and spread the word to your local community.
- Find a cause you care about and become a member and a monthly donor. Nonprofits and action groups plan budgets around reliable, incoming revenue. On-going, dedicated support helps them plan and stay active.
- Volunteer your skills to those in need. Are you an accountant, a chess player, a meditation teacher, an athlete? Find a way to mentor, sponsor, coach or donate your time to disenfranchised communities and individuals.
- Shop small, shop local. Convenience is perhaps one of the hardest addictions to break but taking the extra step to find ways to shop local helps support local economies, artists, craftsmen, small businesses and services.
- Keep educating yourself. Don’t be ashamed to not be an expert on complex issues like immigration reform, health care, and taxation code, you can always speak from a place of personal values and be understood, but if you have an urge to be more fluent in a topic, put down the beach read and pick a book, article or resource on a topic you care about.
- Reckon with yourself honestly. We are socialized into so many thought patterns, and inherited biases – however, that doesn’t mean it is not our job to reprogram our minds. Be curious about your inherited biases and work to reform your thinking through meditation, education, and community involvement.
- When in doubt, check in with your Higher Self. Your Higher Self comes to you from a place of pure Source and ultimate goodness. If you are struggling with an issue or question – bring it to the Higher Self and act on the wisdom of your heart and Higher mind.