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Corona – Lets wake up to a whole new world!

Post Corona World

Business as usual is certainly not an option in the post Corona world. This crisis has impacted every facet of our life and brought to the fore the deep structural fault lines in our current globalized neo liberal economic model, authoritarian-centralized political model, homogenized-standardized cultural model and highly individualized-egocentric social model. A collapse of the existing order, is now imminent. Can a new order emerge out of it, that is socially and economically tolerant, just and equitable, personally liberating, and environmentally sustainable?

That depends on how we respond to this crisis. Can we use it as an opportunity to redraw the way we live, consume and relate to each other as well as to the natural world around us? Its certainly possible. And the movement in this direction will have to start bottom up, from the people at large.

Solidarity in the midst of adversity

We have already seen the signs of it all across the world; community action on a vast scale showing a new social solidarity – helping each other, reaching out to the people hard hit by this lockdown, using web and social media with initiatives to support health care workers, homeless people, migrant labour, job seekers, children. In several parts of India when the big e-com guys have disappeared under one of the toughest lock downs, it’s the small traders and local farmers who have risen to the occasion without exploiting the opportunity by ‘surge pricing’.

We need to build on these new shoots of hope and solidarity. Let’s look at some of the positive actions that we as individuals and communities can and must initiate as this crisis starts winding down.

Live simply

People born before the 60s or even in the 70s would know that this is not how we were used to live, atleast not in India. Simple living was intrinsic to our way of life. If we had a pair of shoes or a pair of slippers, we would use them till the sole or the straps came off and then would run to the cobbler to fix them. Which he would do with a stich or a new sole and then it would go on, till your feet outgrew the size or they became completely unrepairable. If you outgrew, they would go to your younger sibling or cousin. Same was the case with clothes. And once they became unwearable, they would be used as dusting or mopping cloth or cut into pieces and stuffed in a homemade quilt. Buying new clothes was a rare event for special occasions, during a couple major festivals or a wedding in the family. All the school books were borrowed and/or reused. If someone had a car or scooter, which was a rare thing, the vehicle would keep running for an entire lifetime and beyond. Just to illustrate the point, the first fan that was bought in our ancestral house in 1975 is still running.

You only bought something new only if it was absolutely needed, which means the old one was completely broken and unrepairable. Refuse and reuse was the norm. All newspapers were sold to the neighbourhood grocery store, who would use them to pack items customers bought.

Life was good, we had a lot of time for the outdoors, to explore to innovate, to improvise and we were always happy. Had never heard the terms ‘I am bored’ ’how do I kill time’. Communities were tightly interwoven, everyone knew each other, cared for and helped each other in times of need. Festivals were a shared celebration across communities bringing us closer together.

And in just one generation we have seen all of this unravel. The change has been very rapid especially over the last 30 or so years. Today our lives are exactly opposite of this. We have forgotten how to live simply. We buy clothes or shoes that we never wear or wear once or twice a year at best. If we open our closet and start checking each garment in there, I am sure we will find that most of them have not been worn even once in the last 1 year. While we have a perfectly fine summer or winter dress bought last season lying in the closet, we want to buy another this season simply because fashion has changed or a different colour is in vogue or there is a sale.

We generate tons of waste, plastic waste mostly, in everything we buy. We buy/take food much more than what we need and waste it. We want a new phone just because there’s new one with better features or simply because we don’t want to be left out. Same is the case with a new car, a new house, new gadgets – we buy not because the old one is unusable but simply because that’s how we define success and moving up the social ladder.

We consume and acquire endlessly and purposelessly. We try to define our identity and relate to people based on what we consume and acquire. We are in a constant race to nowhere. Money has become the sole goal of our lives. We sacrifice health to earn money and then spend money to save our health. We try to hide our deep inner anguish by indulging in binge drinking, rushing from one nightlife spot to another to hide our day’s misery. We are cut off from nature and live in conflict with its laws. And then head to the mountains and lakes and forests to find peace. Our lives are anything but simple.

But now Corona, by applying sudden breaks on this mad rush, has brought us back to our harsh reality. It has given us an opportunity to rediscover the joy of simple living.

Let’s understand one thing clearly –it’s our consumption that’s the fuel to keep the monster economy alive and running. And it’s the monster economy that is responsible for all the ecological devastation that is unfolding around us. Without the fuel of our consumption it would implode and collapse in no time. Corona has shown us just that.

But you may ask isn’t this bad for the economy and wouldn’t it hurt us if the economy collapses? That brings us to the next important point

Small & Local is Beautiful

Yes, the globalized monster economy, which has long outlived its utility, will certainly collapse; which in any case was happening – Corona or no Corona. When Corona hit us, the economy was already in the ICU, kept alive on life support and tons of steroids (printed money, disguised as QEs). Corona has only accelerated the inevitable.

And from its ashes will emerge a new local economy which is largely local and small in nature both from a production and consumption angle with only a few exceptions. How do we build such a local economy?

A solemn pledge

Let’s start by taking a pledge to live simply and buy local;

  • Local produce from local farmers and small traders; local fruits, vegetables, cereals, pulses and oils; hand-made goods from local craftsmen; natural fabrics and natural local construction material; home-made natural toiletries and personal hygiene products; Lets patronize local businesses, local restaurants, local service providers.

  • Shun imported fruits and vegetables, products of transnational corporations (domestic or foreign), man-made fibres, plastic packaging.

  • Shun chemical cosmetics peddled by mega corporations and favour natural organic local products

  • Another key driver of large-scale environment destruction, global warming and spread of chronic diseases like cancer, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, etc. is our current diet – the ever-increasing consumption of meat, fish, eggs, milk and dairy products. Let’s embrace a vegan plant-based diet. It will have a massive positive impact on our environment as well as our health and help fight global hunger (by freeing up almost 1/3 of the land used for animal farming).

  • Let’s avoid travel, especially overseas travel and air travel, unless it’s absolutely required; shun fancy holidays (cruises, overseas holidays, 5-star resorts) and start exploring the natural world around us, in our vicinity; patronize local homestays, hotels.

  • Shun fast food joints, large restaurant chains and patronize local cuisine and local restaurants

  • Shun ecommerce monsters like Amazon (they are responsible for a massive carbon footprint, waste generation, unfair labour practices and driving local businesses bankrupt) and buy from real people at physical stores around us

  • Shun the corporate media that is keeping us slaves of the monster economy and its masters and patronize alternative crowd funded independent media.

  • Let’s reduce our power and water usage. If we really embrace simple living, it will automatically ensure that

Virtuous Cycle

When we do all of these, or atleast some of these, we are creating virtuous cycle.

  • The money we spend remains in the community and is spent/invested back in the community which will benefit the community as a whole.

  • We buy from a fellow community member and not a computer screen. This helps in building trust-based relationships further strengthening the community bonds as well as promoting transparency and accountability.

  • Yes, because we opt to live simply and buy local, many of the mega corporations may run into rough weather and even collapse. But these are good riddance for our society and environment. These are highly capital intensive and automated industries which create very little employment and suck wealth out of the community and concentrate it in the hands of a few in some tax heavens. They pay no taxes, have no accountability and no transparency.

  • But when we embrace simple and local – organic produce, handicrafts, natural fibres, hand-made garments, local material, local cuisine, local restaurants and so on, it will create a growing demand for these products and spur new economic activity. And as all of these are labour intensive it will create a lot of local jobs that are fair and fulfilling. These will more than offset the loss of employment due to the collapse of the monster economy.

  • What we generate in the process is real wealth vs debt-based paper/digital money

Strengthen Communities

As we progress on this path, lets focus on building communities. Invest in communities. Rediscover local cultural traditions; local languages and community entertainment that we can relate to. Rediscover our roots.

Abandon the globalized homogenized monocultures in music, diet, dress, entertainment and language. Let’s shun commercialized corporatized mockery called sports-entrainment and rediscover traditional games and the true spirit of sports.

When we embrace a simple lifestyle, buy local and focus on communities, the nature of our economy will automatically start changing. The exploitative and extractive nature of our interactions with our fellow human beings and with nature will start changing into a more equitable, fair and just social order and a sustainable economic-ecological paradigm. The focus will shift from GDP growth to health, happiness and well being of our societies and all the sentiment beings around us. Nature, once given space and time, will very quickly regenerate itself. we are already witnessing this all around the world, with just one month of Corona induced respite.

This is the only option we have. Ofcourse we can continue on our old path and try to go back to business as usual. But that’s going to be short lived. Mother Nature will not allow that, beyond a point, and we are well into that point. Corona virus is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what awaits us if we continue on this path. Nature has an arsenal far deadlier and lethal than Corona and it will unleash it on us in its effort to reestablish balance and harmony in natural systems..This is not scare mongering but just stating the facts as they are. The only option we have is to do a drastic and fundamental course correction to living in harmony with nature. It’s a question of our survival as a species. Our current path is certain to drive us into a future of unimaginable misery, destruction and doom.

Corona lockdown has taught us that it’s perfectly possible and rather enjoyable to live without the malls, cinemas, exotic holidays, IPLs, dining out and so on. It has opened new doors and given us time and space to explore new vistas – be it rediscovering family life, sharing and caring, discovering our inner passion and talents, and most importantly slowing down.

We were surrounded by too much noise and distractions, too much in a hurry, and too busy doing nothing of value. Slowing down has enabled us to think, to introspect, to reflect, to become more observant, cherish the beauty of small things in our everyday life – the glory of sun rise and sun set, the flowers blooming, the signing of the birds (not drowned by the noise of traffic), rekindle our taste buds with real homecooked food and so on. This is just the beginning.

There is whole new world out there for us to explore and rediscover; the inner self is waiting to talk to us. Let’s embrace this new world and chart out a new path in the post Corona world.

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