Rational, fair-minded, and progressive people are caught in a vise; more so after the US elections. People used to activism are out on the streets, raising money, writing letters, and speaking openly. Those who are upset and worried but unused to both civic engagement and activism are either in hand-wringing mode or are back to business as usual. This is understandable and even normal. Irrespective, however, of how understandable it is, we must encourage all people to act not only in their own best interests (isn’t a sustainable environment good for us all? Isn’t peace better than war? Isn’t democracy better than autocracy?) but also in the interests of neighbors, friends, and fellow citizens of the world. “Wait and see” has a large body-count.
We are in an era where we’ve normalized language, acts, and processes that deeply hurt us and others. We have so internalized and justified race-hate and misogyny that we actively decide to overlook them for some easy and trivial pay-off. We’ve normalized fear for our children and for the decaying world around us. We’ve normalized the idea that democracy is gone, that our political systems are fetid carcasses, too rotten to touch. We’ve normalized the idea that politicians commit fraud. We’ve accepted corruption, indecency, even murder as facts-of-the-system. We’re okay being openly and mockingly lied to.
We’ve ceded our ability to lead dignified lives characterized by engagement, decency, truth, fairness, and equality. We’ve hurt ourselves and our families- perhaps unknowingly- but for sure indelibly.
But is this a permanent state? Can we lift ourselves out of this mess? Can we actively change our positions? Yes, Yes, and Yes.
The window however is closing. For some things, if you wait long enough, game-over. One example: If the world’s increasingly fragile ecosystem exceeds certain thresholds of carbon, run-away scientific processes will lead to quick degradation—enough to affect literally billions of people. For millions of people who receive no healthcare, sickness and debilitating disease- not caught and left unchecked- becomes terminal; these people leave behind heart-broken and economically-gutted families. Too late is too late.
Do we want to turn back the clock on women’s rights? Do we want to devoid and deprecate decades of civil rights work? Do we want to stop the innovation-engine that powers the economy and is related fundamentally to immigration? Do we want to destroy communities with deportations and cruel anti-family measures? Do we want to start wars, bully small countries, and retreat into protectionism? Do we want to glorify falsehoods, demean scientific values, and invoke “beliefs” to allow diseases to spread and people to die? What if those diseases affect our own kids? What happens when we’ve gutted the system just enough that our children have no institutions to protect them and no rule of law to act as a bulwark against cruelty?
Too late is too late.
So you must act. You must act in personal, financial, and political ways. You must do acts you are unused to, even uncomfortable with. You must engage with your legislators, take to the streets, use the power of both the pen and the dollar to express your ethics and manifest your conscience. You must boycott businesses openly, support progressive causes with more time and money than you ever have, speak out in public and reject hate. You must call elected officials daily. You must remove your consent openly.
The thing about closing windows is this: Even if the worst scenarios are possibly exaggerated, you must take insurance against them. Because too late is too late. If you don’t plan for bad scenarios, if they come then the payload is unbearable. You don’t buy Band-Aids only after you cut yourself? You don’t go to the doctor only after you are terminal. You don’t buy insurance after you crash our car or get a concussion.
Nobody can predict exactly what will happen but they can legitimately extrapolate based not only on what they see but what power people do, have always done, and say they plan to do.
And it isn’t pretty.
The window is closing. Pry it back open my friends.
Daag Ujjala is a freelance writer