In the midst of fear and isolation, we are learning that profound, positive change is possible. By Rebecca Solnit
Disasters begin suddenly and never really end. The future will not, in crucial ways, be anything like the past, even the very recent past of a month or two ago. Our economy, our priorities, our perceptions will not be what they were at the outset of this year. The particulars are startling: companies such as GE and Ford retooling to make ventilators, the scramble for protective gear, once-bustling city streets becoming quiet and empty, the economy in freefall. Things that were supposed to be unstoppable stopped, and things that were supposed to be impossible – extending workers’ rights and benefits, freeing prisoners, moving a few trillion dollars around in the US – have already happened.
The word “crisis” means, in medical terms, the crossroads a patient reaches, the point at which she will either take the road to recovery or to death. The word “emergency” comes from “emergence” or “emerge”, as if you were ejected from the familiar and urgently need to reorient. The word “catastrophe” comes from a root meaning a sudden overturning.