by Dan Kingsbury
Recently the Suzuki Elders hosted a Grief and Praise Luncheon/Supper Club online in the Zoom environment for our Spring Social Event in these COVID times. It was attended by about 20 Elders who shared a virtual meal and then worked with the theme of both Grief and Praise as one word, i.e. holding the distinction of both “gratitude” and “sadness” for our world at the same time.
Embedded in this theme is the wisdom of the Elders, to be shared with the younger generation, that life is full of the good and the bad and that, by holding them both in “Grief and Praise” at the same time, we become more present and resilient, less likely to experience “overwhelm” and more likely to be capable of action in service to an informed response.
For that response we need to talk about what kind of a system we return to after COVID-19. The COVID crisis has given us this opportunity to pause, discuss, and adapt or perish. I am grateful for that, but at the same time I am fearful of the leadership in our world. I hold them both in grief and praise.
People who believe that we are going to return to “normal,” those who have hope, those who want hope but not the truth – this Supper Club idea where meaningful conversations happen is not for them. We live in a world of new diseases emerging from loss of habitat from both economic growth development (aka the “bulldozer”) and climate change warming the Earth’s tropical forest canopy, thereby reducing the size and amount of fruit available as food for bats and thus distressing their population that is essential to both insect control and the pollination of the rainforest. This is the good that they provide. The bad is that, when distressed, they become the source specie of the COVID-19, MERs and SARs viruses. All things are interconnected.
This is happening and this is out of your control; it is also going to change the way the future looks. What do you want your future to look like for you? It is going to look like that unless you, I, we do something different than the same things that got us to this point, grateful as we are for those same systems that got us here.
Meanwhile, where are we at? What is going to happen to us? We have seen re-openings only to be followed by closures and surges in cases in the US and China. We have also seen examples where re-openings are going well in Japan, South Korea and New Zealand, where COVID has been well-managed. Again the good and the bad, again in praise (gratitude) and grief, I am.
There is a very good chance that if the virus is not well managed globally it will become endemic in our population the way HIV has become and as have other microbes that previously had no impact on human beings. If that happens we will have to take precautions indefinitely, hot spots will be shut down and then re-opened with public health measures that right now don’t exist for 90% of the world’s population. We are going to be wearing masks or taking some level of precaution for the rest of our lives because we didn’t handle it right with our current systems of government. For now, we are stuck with it for 2 – 3 years. It could get much worse.
We started off this pandemic under the control of the two most influential and deeply flawed characters of our time, Presidents Xi and Trump, who continue to make mistakes that reflect their character flaws in their governance. Here, close to home, Trump’s response has been to tell the States that they are on their own and are going to have to compete with one another and the rest of the world for PPEs and N-95 masks, thereby assuring that the States’ responses are all fragmented, not to mention ripping away supplies already committed and bound for Kenya or some other third world home, with overpayments and with poor results because none of this is being implemented with a plan such as one that has been modeled elsewhere with success in Japan, New Zealand and South Korea.
The virus could be re-introduced by a traveler at any time, and we now know that 50% of transmissions are from asymptomatic carriers who don’t self-isolate and who go home and infect their families. The virus exploits divisions within society, so if you are in India it’s the lower class, the Dalits, who are most affected. If you are in North America it is the First Nations Indigenous people, the African Americans, and the Latinos. These people are losing their jobs too because of the virus which furthers the wealth divide. We all pay a price for this, it’s all interconnected – white supremacy, militarization, COVID-19, the economy vs. public health. Indeed, I’m grateful to be Canadian, with our public health with our response.
We need to talk between the generations, we need to recreate the way we work. We need to talk about the wealth gap, the injustices, my white fragility. People in the Climate Crisis Conversation say “This is the time, the moment to come through green.” In order for this to happen it matters who is running the world; is it still Xi, Trump and Putin in 2021 or will there be changes? Meanwhile the virus is spreading across the world. Testing is inadequate: even if it were reliable and available it would not be useful if you were the individual who has the virus, if you were the school affected, or the employer. What is needed is informed behavioural change on a global level.
You have a choice to possibly get up and do something. Which is what? Besides social distancing, use of masks and hand washing, being a doctor or scientist, you could start a conversation on Zoom or Facebook to talk about inquiry-type questions, and perhaps use the format we used at our Suzuki Elder Luncheon/Supper Club this past June, 2020, that is available for your use on this website.
Who would you invite to lunch or dinner to introduce to “the conversation” that you create by taking some time to think about what it is that might be your special skill to contribute to this larger conversation on healing ourselves. It could be what you do for a living, it could be a song, a dance, a “thing” to sit down with and ask within your community “What can we be working on now that re-imagines our society from our unique point-of-view?” If you are an educator you might ask, “How can schooling be different? What have you ideally wanted in education?”
Everyone can do this kind of re-imaging with their versions of their own story of who we are in this world and how we can be in service to creating the more beautiful world we all want. When we are interconnected in these types of meaningful discussions the outcome is indeed contributing in some way to a friendlier, safer world for all of us. It starts with a single spark, it starts with you and me, and you can be the one to take action.
If not now, when?