This pandemic is not about us
Updated: Jul 27
Just like any good team, The Green Team make mistakes, especially now in survival mode. When that happens, I sharpen my pen, and let us have it. So, strap yourselves in boys and girls. We have to talk about the teams’ failed reaction to this pandemic and how to get back on message.
Although I'm not someone who particularly leans to one direction, I do strongly feel that the sustainable and conscious corner is also my team. The Green Team, if you will. Lately however, I’m reminded of a Dutch proverb that translates as ‘The best sailors are on shore’. And, as you may have noticed, our social media feeds are currently buzzing with them sailors. How come? We’ll, it’s because we are all still in survival mode.
This crisis isn’t about you
Make no mistake. Even with your healthy lifestyle and your stress-reducing yoga breathing, you too, my fellow yogi bear, went into survival mode. Just like everybody else. How do I know this? Because in survival mode, people think of themselves first and not of others. And so far, we are projecting the pandemic on just about everything except a simple truth: this pandemic is not about us.
We are safe. We live in a beautiful bubble, with a nice view on the very top of Maslow’s Pyramid, full of hugs, healthy food, lots of exercise, hugs, meditation, seven-dollar-Chai-Oat-Milk-Flat-White-Latte-Macchiatos with sustainable honey, hugs, those adorable little festivals that'll be the new norm… did I mention hugs?
What I’m saying is: it is unlikely the virus will kill us. We are healthy and usually don’t end up in virus hotbeds like après-ski bars or meat houses. Our lives are balanced, we are a low risk group and already share a sharing economy. We’ll survive. So, for us this pandemic should be a chance to connect to the world outside our bubble. Are we?
We are not being conscious
No. Our messaging so far has been self-centered. Almost all of the hundreds of online discussions, video’s, articles and social posts from the sustainable corner I’ve seen this far, are projections of how we are doing and what our opinion is and how we are being duped. And remember, survival mode is visible by always pointed at the self.
For instance, many of us dismiss social distancing (which again, is not about you…) as a government ploy. We vilify a billionaire - whom I wholeheartedly dislike too - who did warn us about a pandemic, like many others did after SARS and Zika by the way. We send each confirmations about our great immune systems. Or talk about ‘The Swedish model’, a country that however beautiful (and forever in my heart!) is sparsely populated, incomparable to others, and doing worse than you'd think.
This narrative foregoes the hierarchy of needs. It even adds a pretty nasty tinge of Western cultural insensitivity to it all. It’s all just so… dare I say it? Not conscious. True mindfulness is accepting that this crisis was never about those in safe harbors. It’s about all those people on that boat, surviving in any way they can, caught in a terrible storm that could only be slowed down by the human race stepping back.
But wait a second... isn't that the The Green Message? That we need to step back as a species? So now that we've done just that, what are we communicating exactly? Our messaging - with exceptions of course - is mostly filled with indignation, in the vain of ‘what’s really happening’ or ‘the truth about’, even by those who I will love and cherish forever for their (usually) incredible wisdom. And the kicker? Alt-right messages always start exactly the same.
What’s really happening. No really.
I’ll tell you what’s really happening. We, The Green Team, are nervous. We have forgotten that our boat ride to more consciousness was rough as hell, full of mistakes and big fat denials as well. And in our anxiety, we now use words like ‘others’ or ‘they’ or 'the government', suggesting that all ‘those’ people are different from us. The body language says 'they had it coming'. And that's where I draw the line.
Those ‘others’ are my elderly parents, their friends, a non-risk friend hospitalized anyway, a family-friend with an auto-immune disease, my niece who works in elderly care, a super healthy girl at my office with asthma, my doctor friends, my aunt who is in the government response team… need I go on?
Yes, I do. Because it gets worse. We've started looking down upon the essential workers delivering quinoa to our happy little conscious bubble, by arguing that they should all go out and built herd immunity. (Be honest, would you in their shoes?) We dismiss the opinions of healthcare professionals, who are both risking and giving their lives, as withholding the 'truth'. We even attack the best journalists in the world, who have dedicated their lives to their profession and what it stands for, dismissing them as 'the media', while they weather a tornado of disinformation every day.
There are real people at the front lines
What's really going on is that viruses, after a whopping 3,5 billion years of evolution, don't feel like discriminating much. That without measures, this one would blow up our hospitals and happily mutate even further. That is also attacks perfectly healthy children with a variation of Kawasaki disease.
I even got into a spat with someone who, like too many of us, claimed the virus was caused by 5G. I said that while I had my own reservations about 5G (who doesn’t?!), suggesting the biologically impossible is hurtful to my loved ones in the hospitals and on the front lines. I begged him to stop. He said: “I’m doing you a favor…”.
It was so mindbogglingly condescending, so utterly heartless, so bereft of empathy, I went berserk. Looking back, we should probably forgive each other. That is, if we can admit to ourselves that we too are in survival mode. That we too are making mistakes. My own temper loss doesn’t take away anything from that point. In fact, it only strengthens it. We’re supposed to be the conscious people!
We too are spreading fake news
But these messages come from yoga teachers, mindfulness trainers, mediation experts… many of us falling for conspiracy theories straight from the Kremlin, sharing anti-vaccination messages, blaming ‘those who don't have their eyes open’ or aren't 'enlightened'. As someone who majored in propaganda, I can't believe what I'm seeing. These are the exact words used by religious fanatics and populist fringes. Yet now I'm finding them circling in my yoga groups? What the hell?
I'm 'the media' too you know. I'm not one of the suggested 'sheep' who 'follows orders' and I'm known to have organized a successful anti-government protest or two. I've been researching fake news to fight populism for twenty years now. Yes of course we need to be vigilant against government and companies taking advantage of this situation. Some already are. And your freedom of speech is so sacred to me that I will fight censorship, with the same vicious pen I hold now, even if I disagree with you (although it would help if you'd stop using FB as your source).
But right now, I'm less worried about an enemy I already know than I am about us. 'They' at least try to do something against an unknown threat, even if they make mistakes doing so. That makes us - standing on the shore - look ridiculous and heartless. I mean, for crying out loud! It's a goddamn worldwide pandemic! I know it's hard to wrap your mind around it, but the least you could do is show a little empathy.
See how it feels to be patronized by me? It makes you angry doesn't it. Ready to go hit back on social media and let me have it! Well, now you know how those 'others' feel...
All this superiority, arrogance and condescension, from you and from me, is coming from a place of understandable fear. But my point is: it's really not that conscious now is it? It doesn't show much awareness now does it? And in the end it means only one thing: in our anxiety, we're not connecting with a world in need.
What we should be doing
And by failing that, we are missing the incredible opportunity The Green Team has right now to share its knowledge and help the world become more sustainable. Let’s communicate what’s truly relevant for the world to heal, and show what good this pandemic can do for Earth.
That the skies are clear. Bees are buzzing. Birds are tweeting, and not on social media. Fish populations are restoring. That tourism is down, and communities are up. People buy bikes instead of cars. That the pandemic has led to a 17% drop in global CO2 emissions so far. Dolphins returning to their, not our, coasts. New stars visible in the city night skies. Heck, that even drug cartels stopped fighting to distribute food.
I mean, what kind of vegan are you really, when you scream 'conspiracy' while meat consumption was literally the cause? Can't you see the open goal? We should point out that viruses actually come from terrible meat house practices (swine flu, bird flu and technically a bacteria; mad-cow disease), who are, ironically, now it's primary hotbeds. And that they come from forests we should've never cut down and whose animals we should have never taken from their homes (Zika, AIDS, Covid19).
And install a universal base income to restore the economy. A Green New Deal. Build green cities with our hands, not our social media posts. How ‘strongmen’ are failing so miserably, they've become a running gag. Demand a real price for fish and meat. Debate universal health care, local produce (also of medicine), a better distribution of wealth and education, worldwide forest protection, and the medical profession giving space to mindfulness and prevention. Share our vast experience to create sustainable festivals, hotels, foods, restaurants, travel...
See what I'm doing here? We need to change tack. I want us to get back on our original message.
A once in a lifetime opportunity
In short, we have a wide open goal in front of us to score point after point after point. For years to come. We should get back on the message we've had all along: reconnecting with nature, and making a good buck by doing so. It’s our strength. We should work with others, show how to make lots of money with sustainability, pull people up the pyramid, share how to build a better world instead of being smug about our position in it. Let's get off that yoga cushion and start cranking.
We have a once in a lifetime opportunity to show that this pandemic is a warning shot from Mother Nature that compels us to do better. And that it won’t be her last. Never has the world needed that message more. And never has it been more open to receiving it then now. This is the moment The Green Team has worked towards for decades. Let’s grab it with both hands and hold on to it until the Earth has cooled.
That, in my eyes, should be our story.
To do that, we should make our selves a little less important. Be brave and acknowledge that we feel anxiety too. Practice acceptance of being in the dark. Then we should quickly forgive our selves and alleviate our fears in the best way we can: by getting back to work. This pandemic is not a chance for you to show off your blueberry-avocado diet. It’s a chance for us to show, with patience, why such a diet, and all the stuff that comes with it, can save everyone in the long run.
Especially those who are struggling at governments, healthcare centers, and businesses craving for sustainability right now, but were kinda busy dealing with something else...
Back on the boat
So, to all green sailors on the shore, I’ll say this as ‘authentic’ in my ‘relating’ as I can: nobody likes a wise guy. And with that, I too will stop patronizing and go for a hug, if you'll still have me. If we really want a greener planet, let’s do the world and our selves a big favor. Let’s get off our high horse and jump back onto that boat. As one gigantic team.
It's now or never.
And plant trees people. Plant trees.
Rogier van Kralingen