When the flood callsYou have no home, you have no wallsIn the thunder crashYou’re a thousand minds, within a flashDon’t be afraid to cry at what you seeThe act is gone, there’s only …
When the flood calls
You have no home, you have no walls
In the thunder crash
You’re a thousand minds, within a flash
Don’t be afraid to cry at what you see
The act is gone, there’s only you and me
And if we break before the dawn, they’ll
Use up what we used to be
— Peter Gabriel, “Here Comes the Flood”
It’s no accident or coincidence that Donald Trump originally declared Easter as his desired moment for the post-coronavirus era to begin and normal economic activity to resume. “I would love to have the country opened up and just raring to go by Easter,” he said on March 24, in a gesture designed to appeal not only to the financial world and the business community, but also Trump’s evangelical base. A glorious, triumphant resurrection was clearly what he had in mind.
But there was one problem with that forecast. As Jesus says in Tim Rice’s “Jesus Christ Superstar,” “To conquer death, you only have to die.” This system hasn’t died, and without death, there’s no resurrection. Is it wounded? Yes. Staggered? You bet. But, like Monty Python‘s aged peasant, it’s not dead yet.
Now, don‘t get me wrong here, and let me be very clear. This system needs to die, oh yes, but I am not rooting for any sort of general economic collapse. No New Depression, please, no breadlines, no waves of dour but plucky Steinbeckian migrants wending their way across a dust-strewn American plain looking for work.
No, I have something else in mind.
Trump suffers, among other things, from a failure of imagination. (He has delusions instead. There’s a difference.) “Our Economy will BOOM, perhaps like never before!!!” he tweeted on April 8. The resurrection he seeks is little more than a return to the status quo ante—perhaps “bigger and better,” but still only the reanimation of a near-corpse.
I suggest we have instead an opportunity for transformation—for a true rebirth.
But for that to happen, here’s what must die: an underlying, little-questioned set of moral (or rather, amoral) values that have corrupted whatever might have once been beneficial within capitalism.
These values have set the pursuit of profit ahead of human life, ahead of our environment, ahead of peace and ahead of the integrity of our communities. They have encouraged us to see ourselves as isolated, separate and besieged, and to see others either as threats to be eliminated or opportunities to be exploited.
These are the values that make someone believe that the terms “profit-driven” and “healthcare” are supposed to go together. These are the values that snatch life-giving and life-protecting emergency equipment away so they can be sold on the open market instead. These are the values that entice hustlers and snake oil salesmen to try to fleece the rubes.
These are the values that the coronavirus outbreak has brought into the open, laid bare for all of us to see.
It is possible, at this precise juncture in history, to begin the process of replacing these values so that the new economy that rises from the ashes embodies the values of compassion, community and solidarity that we have seen so frequently and powerfully displayed these past few weeks.
This process will not be easy, and it will not be painless. It is a death—a profound letting go—and requires great spiritual strength to go through. But there is something worth striving for on the other side.
The flood is coming.
Learn to swim.
— Tool, “Ænima”