So what is this ideology that I blame for our predicament and wish would collapse as soon as possible? Why is it so bad? Why did it proliferate and, therefore, what could bring it crashing down? How can we live creatively and meaningfully by consciously freeing ourselves and each other from that ideology?
In short, we are living through the fall of a great power. With it will go a unique way of organizing the world. The symbolism of president Trump cowering in an underground bunker beneath the White House in late May couldn’t be plainer.
Changing times are calling for more radical approaches to social work. COVID-19 is teaching us that resilient social networks are local. After the pandemic broke out in my community, opportunities for resource sharing and communication opened up. Mutual aid support networks emerged, where neighbors post what they need help with, and what they have to offer. I am seeing brilliance, generosity, and creativity. BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) backyard garden projects. Mask making and distribution. Bed and breakfasts converted into shelters. Meals for the unhoused. Most of these organizers are not “social workers,” but perhaps this is an indication of the direction social work should be going.
To step out of the illusion of thinking we exist as a separate self is to recognize—and be born into—our greater identity (whether we call it the Self, Christ, Buddha, etc.), that includes and embraces everything under the sun. The Self—who we actually are—is simultaneously the source and fruit of life itself, enhancing life beyond measure.
In “How Fascism Works,” Professor Stanley addressed “fascist politics”—and repeatedly used that term when describing the Trump-led Republican Party. For those in the USA who recoil at applying such a phrase to today, preferring to call it hyperbole, Stanley’s book sheds clear light on an insidious process that normalizes and obscures: “Normalization of fascist ideology, by definition, would make charges of ‘fascism’ seem like an overreaction, even in societies whose norms are transforming along these worrisome lines. Normalization means precisely that encroaching ideologically extreme conditions are not recognized as such because they have come to seem normal. The charge of fascism will always seem extreme; normalization means that the goalposts for the legitimate use of ‘extreme’ terminology continually move.”
If America enters the next wave of coronavirus infections “with the wealthy having gotten somehow wealthier off this pandemic by hedging, by shorting, by doing all the nasty things that they do, and we come out of our rabbit holes and realize, ‘Oh, my God, it’s not just that everyone I love is unemployed or underemployed and can’t make their maintenance or their mortgage payments or their rent payments, but now all of a sudden those jerks that were flying around in private helicopters are now flying on private personal jets and they own an island that they go to and they don’t care whether or not our streets are safe,’ then I think we could have massive political disruption.” “Just as we come out of our holes and see what 25 percent unemployment looks like,” she said, “we may also see what collective rage looks like.”
Among other things, we may want to simply sign up to become students of uncertainty, or as the Buddhists say, “When you’re falling, dive.” This will require intention and practice. It does not require us to become news anorexics, but it does require us to temper our projections into the future as we practice staying present. This also gives us an opportunity to observe how attached we are to outcomes.
The way our world is manifesting—even before the advent of the coronavirus—seems nightmarish beyond belief; add in the global pandemic and the nightmare takes on an even denser seeming reality than before. When I see the truly dire nature of our situation, any talk about global awakening and the evolution of our species seems like utter pablum, the ravings coming from the fevered imagination of someone who is deeply in denial regarding the depth of evil manifesting in our world. And yet, I also see that something is being revealed to us through the darkness that can—in true quantum style, potentially—change everything.
Consciously holding the tension of the opposites within our own awareness without splitting off and identifying with either of the opposites (either optimistic or pessimistic) is an intrinsic super-hero power that we all possess, knowingly or unknowingly. Interestingly, holding the tension of the opposites is experienced as—and symbolized by—a veritable crucifixion of our limited egoic identity. Is this to be genuinely imitating Christ and, as he counseled his followers to do, to be carrying our own cross?