It’s times like these you learn to live againTimes Like These, Foo Fighters
It’s times like these you give and give again
It’s times like these you learn to love again
It’s times like these time and time again
There has never been a time quite like this. And yet we are trapped in a cycle within a cycle: the monotony of pandemic isolation within the endless repetition of pandemonium.
As America burns, the world burns with it. We burn with anger, with helplessness, with despair. We burn in support of equality, or we burn in fear that someone will rob us of our privilege. We burn and counter-burn, in a vicious cycle, until there is no oxygen left to fuel the flame.
Pandemic pandemonium is a microcosm of our entire world — a cycle within a cycle within a cycle. While a virus burns us, its hosts, from within, we burn our own host through our habits, our wants, our perceived needs. And the fires we light today, in cities across America, are like embers blowing in the wind from our burning globe.
I know that through inaction I am complicit, so I try to move, try to speak — about injustice and inequality and ignorance. About perpetuating the myth that anyone is more or less worthy than anyone else. About believing that we can manage the Earth and its people like pieces in a board game.
I try to move, try to speak … but I can only stand in stunned silence, counting my blessings. I am blessed with clear skies and lush forests, with fresh water and food to spare. Yet to suggest that I lack for opportunity to lend my voice, to make a difference, reeks of privilege.
I can speak, and so I must. My words are neither my weapon nor my defence — they are my tools. With them I shall work to build bridges. For if I can write a path between any two humans lost in their own echo chambers, then I shall count that as success. And if I might learn a little from each of those people in the process, then I shall consider myself improved.
Watching America burn in an inferno of fear and disparity is watching the effect of unchecked capitalism. Of democracy hijacked by he who wields the biggest megaphone. Of a civilization that pretends to exist by the people, for the people — but which relies on the many to serve the few.
We all fear — for our lives, our livelihoods, our lifestyles. All fears are valid, but all actions are not. And fears, like opportunities, are far from equal. When I see #blacklivesmatter or #pride or #metoo, I realize there are voices that need to be heard. Lives that need to be valued. People who need to be understood. We the privileged do not need to counter every message we see with a watered down version of our own. Of course all lives matter, straight people and men included. But that’s not the point. It is up to each of us to recognize where we have privilege, and to spend a good part of that privilege not for another luxury, but for those who need it more than we do.
Not long ago, I felt that my demographic — the straight, white, middle-aged, middle-class male — was under attack. As much as I wanted equality for all, I struggled with equity in practice. I saw equity — giving people different tools in an effort to create equal outcomes — as a flawed concept. Someone near and dear to me called it “equality plus”, a term that resonated with me on some level. Yet I never felt quite right about that, knowing that my perspective on equality is skewed by privilege and good fortune.
I have grown to see equity as a critical step in the journey toward justice. Toward true equality. Equity is not an end unto itself, but it is a necessary toolkit, a sharing of privilege, a hand up — not a hand-out. Until we attain justice for all — until we know that no person will be deemed more or less worthy than anyone else based on the colour of their skin, their gender, their sexual orientation, or any other arbitrary attribute that humans use to discriminate against one another — then equity will be necessary.
I have long struggled with the blessing and the curse of indecision. Of hearing all sides of an argument, and seeing at least a shred of validity in each perspective. I am beginning to understand that this open-mindedness is both a tool and a gift. That I have the ability to hear people, to convey complex ideas in simple terms, to build bridges. I am not neutral — I am agnostic and liberal, an environmentalist with socialist leanings. But I am also the beneficiary of capitalism, and I am a strong believer in personal responsibility. I recognize there is a fine line between empowering someone and enabling them. And I realize there is no perfect system.
I am always open to hearing new ideas — or fresh perspectives on ideas that I thought I understood. I recognize that every one of us has wisdom to share. That every one of us is to some degree a hypocrite; a consumer; a contributor to the very problems we wish to solve. That this is a world of spectrums, of bell curves, of countless shades of grey. That we are each, for all our imperfections and complexities, perfectly and simply human.
I dream of a day when we can each bend on one knee, look one another in the eye, and speak in sentences that begin with “I” instead of “You”. I dream of a day when we can realize that building another person up does not require tearing ourselves down. I dream of a day when we understand that our differences are the flip side of our similarities, and our weaknesses the flip side of our strengths. But until then, I will breathe deeply and write from the heart.
It’s times like these I choose to live, to give, to love. It’s times like these, time and time again.