In an email exchange, a friend (I hope I can call him that) made an excellent point about the whole "returning to normal" post pandemic thing as seen from the perspective of dealing with mental health issues. The notion of realising "back" is toxic, damaging, dangerous is vital to dealing with the situation, realising that the only viable way is forward. Yet I continue to fear many in society will not come to such a realisation and, therefore, things won't really change much.
Okay, so offices and public transport and shops may look a bit different, and we may have to modify our routines and behaviours because of that, but people will just suffer it without actually internalising the reasons why. I think it's only those who have been shocked into such a realisation - just like having your world changed profoundly by a mental health diagnosis - that will truly recognise it for what it is.
Sadly, I think the same can be said for the race issues pervading and demanding global attention. Many will express shock and exude sympathy but without having some kind of deep personal revelation will soon forget it all, lose that sense of outrage, and go back to "normal" - whatever that may be.
There's always another outrage to distract those not directly suffering.
And that's bad for all of us.
I rarely write about topics such as politics or religion. I don't know if it's because I see them as contentious and don't want to rock the boat or because I haven't truly formed my own opinions on those topics. That makes it all the more difficult to wade in at a later date. There have been so may times where I could commented, should have commented, that suddenly breaking silence seems like bandwagonism. Still, silences need to be broken about so many things; not only that but the noise needs to continue, rather than dying out, after the initial exhortation.
I have seen so many comments about the expression of momentary guilt as an artificial way of making things seem a bit better, a way of making people feel better about themselves by expressing a brief flicker of solidarity and don't want to come across as just another temporary, well-meaning do-gooder who pipes up on cue only to fall silent when they are truly needed.
I think that's part of why I don't write about these things in the first place; not wanting to appear fake or opportunistic, not adding uninformed noise to the argument, but am equally aware that silence and inaction are a form of action on their own. Its a tricky line to walk, an uncomfortable one but that's the whole point: uncomfortable shouldn't be a reason not to do something, uncomfortable should be the reason to actually do it so that it becomes less uncomfortable, becomes normal.
There's that word again.
We're all fed up of hearing the term "the new normal" in connection with coronavirus but the truth is things will be different and those differences will become the norm, at least over the next weeks and months. They have to, just as they have to with the inequalities within our societies.
We can't go back, we have to move forward. As I quoted in the last muse-letter:
We can’t return to normal, because the normal that we had was precisely the problem.