blog, monthly theme

Latent Lollygagger: Global Vulnerability

This month’s theme is Vulnerability and Trust

Nothing today is the same as it was last week. This morning is the first day of three weeks of mandatory shelter-in-place in the Bay Area, where I live. Across the country, cities and states are implementing ever-stricter regulations to promote social distancing.

These measures are in place basically so that we don’t all get sick at once and overwhelm our limited health care system. And, so that those of us who are young and health enough to withstand the virus don’t infect someone who isn’t.

We are all vulnerable to this virus.

This vulnerability perhaps explains why I’ve been so angry when I read about people denying its severity or calling it a hoax, people going to concerts in crowded venues, leadership botching the response at every turn.

Because we’re all so vulnerable, it means we have to put more trust in each other to take care of the collective. Because of this added trust, we become even more vulnerable to the actions of others. So when I see actions from the very people I’m supposed to trust be counter to the actions needed to quite literally save lives, I see red.

About 3 minutes after snapping this photo on a walk yesterday, I made the mistake of checking my phone and seeing the orders for shelter-in-place.

It brings up a lot for me, not least of which is anger against the culture of entitlement that leads people to make decisions on their own individual needs without considering how it will affect society. We’ve been raised in a society that rewards this, so it’s not exactly anyone’s fault. My anger is more at the system that rewards this, not the individuals acting in line with what they’ve been taught. What’s been engrained in them. We are all products of our culture, and ours certainly doesn’t reward vulnerability or looking out for the greater good over the individual.

When we’re all so vulnerable, having examples of people who don’t see themselves as vulnerable, and are in fact ignoring the vulnerability of others, makes it hard to have trust that the collective we will be okay. That we’ll get through this. That there is enough compassion in the world to beat this virus.

Thankfully, if I can pry my eyes away from the despair, there is a lot of evidence that humanity can be trusted. Videos from Italy capturing neighbors serenading each other from their balconies. People in Spain collectively cheering out their windows for health care workers. Endless posts on NextDoor making sure everyone has what they need. My groups of friends organizing virtual dinner parties, happy hours, and training sessions. Art institutions streaming performances and offering virtual tours. Teachers offering plans for parents to educate their children when they’re home. The clinicians I work with ready to drop everything and rush to the front lines. Local leadership here making hard decisions but also supporting the workers and businesses who are affected.

I am working on my compassion for people who don’t seem to be having compassion for the greater good, knowing they’re a product of a culture that’s hard to untangle from. I hope we can all navigate the next few weeks, if not months, from a place of compassion for what might be best for the greater world, not our individual selves, and that instead of being driven into further division by this virus, we come closer together as people.

What scares you the most or lifts you up right now? Comment below or on my Facebook page.

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2 thoughts on “Latent Lollygagger: Global Vulnerability”

  1. I share your hopes, Erin! Maybe this pandemic is a way for us to snap us out of our polarization and develop empathy, compassion, love and grace for one another. I confess, feeling compassion for people who continue to lack compassion for the greater good is a big challenge. Your insights that they have been trained by a culture that rewards such behavior are spot on. They also make me wonder — how can we use the opportunity presented by this pandemic to shift our culture to a more altruistic set of rewards?


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