It’s two months into the quarantine here, and people are ready to get Back To Normal. I hear them shouting to each other in the parks, standing six feet from each other but all petting the same dogs: “THIS IS SO CRA-ZEE! HAHAHAHAHAHA I KNOW RIGHT? CAN’T WAIT TO GET BACK TO NORMAL!” Or I talk to people on the phone for work, and they say “When this is all over, when we get back to normal, such and such can go back to the way it was and then everything will work like it’s supposed to and we can get back to business as usual. Hope you’re well.”
But I don’t want things to go back to normal. Of course, I’m an outlier, because I already spent all my time at home and talked to no one. Some would say, just because I love being On Line, doesn’t mean everyone should have to live like me. A lot of people liked normal. Still I say, normal should not return.
Normal wasn’t as good as you might think. Certainly there were good parts, in the life of a decadent citizen of a falling empire. HBO and swimming pool and food delivery: there were amenities. But the daily dose of soma was only made possible through the subjugation of billions of people. There were always “essential workers”, they never had health insurance or decent wages, and they were already dying from the toxic, stressful lives they live.
If normal is bars and restaurants and jobs and vacations and car trips and business flights and video game tournaments and music festivals and Bitcoin mining and war – constant, endless war, war for the sake of advancing war science, war that benefits no one but the merchants of war and their sycophants – if normal is wasting the precious energy of our only planet in a blind and drunken rage, why would anyone want to go back to normal?
Normal was only possible through a collective hallucination. The post-war world was a fantasy conjured by the most traumatized and globally connected generation in history. They smiled and had liquour for lunch and did whatever seemed to make sense, and that’s a perfectly fine reaction to the events of the first half of the twentieth century. But since then everyone’s been trying to maintain that exact status quo, that normal . House, car, garage, two and a half kids, a chicken in every pot and a TV in every room.
The neoliberal regimes installed in the eighties changed the underlying economic system, but left normal intact. They took care not to alter the mythos of American hegemony, of Disney and Ford and Coca-Cola. Normal was a coat of cherry-red paint on a Predator drone.
Even if normal was good to you, that’s no reason to want it back. Normal wasn’t going to last. For one thing, global capitalism inherently creates the conditions for pandemic. People flying all over the world to shake hands, and the factory farms that feed them, and the constant hunt for new resources in the most wild places: it’s the perfect environment for a virus to jump to humans. I mean, for the last ten years we built our economy around “going viral”. What did we expect?
Normal was never going to last. We were already hurtling toward catastrophe, with no steering wheel and no brakes. We still are.
All currently living trees are projected to die within 30 years. The climate is going to change so much, so fast, that they won’t be able to survive in the places they live. And they can’t just pick up and move.
But humans can, and will. Millions, possibly billions, will migrate toward the poles as the earth warms. Resources will become scarce, cultures will clash, nations will dissolve. All of this was ordained before the virus ever stirred.
Normal was a hallucination. We are living through the greatest disaster humanity has ever known. This plague is not some side quest, a mini-game to be played out so that we can return to the main storyline. It is a harbinger of the doom that is to come. It is the herald of Apocalypse. Those who heed it, will define the way we live in the future.
I don’t mean the “new normal”. Mistrust anyone who says “new normal”: they’re selling something. The future has no normal. The future is weird everywhere.
Thanks for reading,
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