Resist the Unraveling of Hope
Things are bad, but they can get better. Just keep your mask on.
Not long ago, it felt as though we were finally willing to break from our old, broken ways. This tone of optimism was immortalized in a video posted online in late April by 26-year-old Tomos Roberts (aka Probably Tom Foolery), who wrote a bedtime story imagining our post-pandemic future. In his four-minute poem, which has tens of millions of views on Facebook and YouTube, Roberts describes the world prior to the outbreak of Covid-19 — our isolating addiction to screens, our destruction of the Earth, and our political resistance to change. But then, as Roberts’ story goes, the virus arrived, and our culture started to shift. After hiding in our homes, we reemerged to find that not only had we changed, but our ideas of society had progressed for the better.
The video simplistically and saccharinely captured both the sense of community we quickly adopted as the virus spread as well as a frisson of possibility underlying the bleak headlines. Because, in the beginning, we really did change. We stayed home, for one thing, and we stayed apart. We reconnected with old friends. We ditched the makeup. We baked.
And, of course, we started wearing masks.
Overall, things were still horrific. As death rates climbed, health systems struggled to cope. There were fresh outbreaks. Millions lost their jobs. People became destitute; they started starving. It was unspeakably grim. But those first weeks of the pandemic were also clarifying. We became moral philosophers, discerning what mattered and what didn’t. We scrutinized the systems underpinning our society with a renewed perspective, and our old controversies seemed suddenly trivial.
Just as noticeable as those who refuse to wear a mask are the number who do.
We started to talk about basic needs like health care and shelter as human rights. We agreed that the air was cleaner and that there should be bike lanes and more space for pedestrians. We wondered about inequality and the health and economic risk we imposed on another human with each app-assisted delivery to our door — the real price of convenience. We saw the disparities in our cities, with the…