Final Foggy Thought
If there’s one thing I’m beginning to realise is that a crisis (of any kind) is what happens when we don’t challenge what we see as the status quo. For my final foggy thought, I wanted to spend some time thinking through the convergence of three crises happening simultaneously: the Covid-19 Pandemic, climate crisis and Black Lives Matter.
I was reading Janet Roitman’s book Anti-Crisis in which she tells us that “Normalcy, Never Again” was the original title for Martin Luther King Jr.’s now landmark speech delivered on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963. However, at some stage it changed and “Normalcy, Never Again” became “I Have a Dream”. What’s interesting to me when thinking through these two titles for the same speech is how possibilities for new futures are inherently entangled with the realities of the day, and how political the very basic desire to want to something more can be. For Roitman, crises are moments “when normativity is laid bare, such as when the contingent or partial quality of knowledge claims—principles, suppositions, premises, criteria, and logical or causal relations—are disputed, critiqued, challenged, or disclosed.” She continues that these are moments of “epistemological impasse and … is claimed to found the possibility … for a (new) future.”
There’s something both devastating and hopeful in the thought that a crisis offers a turning point. The devastation is that we as humans have to wait until things get so bad before we can (hope) to see systemic change of any kind. But the hopefulness of a crisis is that we see change at all.
I’m not really too sure if a pandemic technically counts as a crisis. I guess it’s a health crisis.
Covid-19, showed us the way in which we had normalised and prioritised bodies physically moving not to mention how fast and global that movement is. And by doing so, it seems that this pandemic has brought a series of pre-existing crises to the forefront and exacerbated them. Revealing digital, household and class inequities, while also fanning flames onto the already burning fires.
Not all bodies move equally.
So many things that before were too hard within our pre-covid ‘normal’ were all of a sudden possible. Every student in New Zealand was supplied a device or stationary, internet connections were made possible in previously unconnected places, conferences previously unable to accommodate those who can’t travel suddenly went digital, work places became flexible and thousands of hotel rooms were opened up to house people. Obviously all of this was extraordinary measures meeting extraordinary circumstances but the speed in which everything was possible made a mockery of any “too hard” comments from before.
Climate change is definitely one of those things that has always been a bit “too hard”. We always hear reports coming out that even if the whole world miraculously stopped emitting carbon that we still wouldn’t be able to reverse the effects of climate change like in this article or this one. And yet as national borders closed like dominos, photos of clear canals in Venice and displaced wild life returning to their habitats quickly flooded our social media timelines. Is the impossible actually possible?
I don’t think even our most staunch environmentalists would want to the see the environment benefiting at the hands of human life through disease but it showed us that we can still participate in a global world while also helping to heal the earth. If anything with everyone grounded the global flows of information and images seemed even more intense. The idea of reducing significant emissions didn’t seem that miraculous.
When I heard that oil was being sold off at a negative price (as in they were paying people to take it away) I could only laugh. How quickly those who were involved in oil tumbled from the top. I asked people why they couldn’t just stop pumping it from the earth? Our greed seems so much disgusting when we all stand still and the oil which we usually rely on just keeps flowing.
Black Lives Matter
I was really proud of my friends and family who had never been moved by any cause to mobilise in light of the violence occurring against Black bodies in the United States. This kind of racialised brutality, we know, is as old as the United States itself. But there’s something about right now that have people moving. I’ve been thinking this breaking point. Why not 5, 10, 20 years ago? I’ve been thinking too about how when you’re already in amidst multiple crises it can seem like there is nothing left to be lost, so then the question becomes why not now.
I saw on Twitter someone made this thread about what the protests have achieved so far. It’s pretty staggering how much change has been made. It’s also incredibly heart wrenching that brutal and sustained loss of life aimed at Black bodies is the crisis.
It wasn’t until this project that I saw fog as an analogy to thinking. Like a thought you don’t really know when the fog is going to spring up but it does require a series of events for it be possible, some of which you only really recognise in retrospect. Then when you’re in the midst of it, it’s hard to make sense of what’s happening and what’s actually in front of you. You just have to sit in it and wait. Then only when it settles do you begin to have some clarity again.
Which begs the final question, as the posts die down, and the lockdown ends, as the international travel picks up again, as the fog is burning off, what change with remain?