Why We Don’t Want a ‘Return to Normal’

by Steph Shuff

A recent article written and posted on Medium by Julio Vincent Gambuto — which has been shared hundreds of thousands of times on social media — sends a dire warning about the aftermath we will face in a post-coronavirus world. The author warns Americans to prepare for the ultimate gaslighting, not only by the federal government, but by the corporations who will attempt to “fix” our new problems with more stuff. As he predicts: “Billions of dollars will be spent on advertising, messaging, and television and media content to make you feel comfortable again.”

Photo by Tobias Tullius on Unsplash

For better or worse, the author is right: we are often sold the idea by politicians and corporations that buying the American Dream and all the things associated will bring us peace, happiness, comfort, success, status, or any other number of intangible things we seek as part of our human experience. In a post-coronavirus world, where millions of people will be craving a return to normalcy, politicians and corporations will try to tackle our new uncertainty with new solutions and products, or new ways of marketing old ones.

As we approach Earth Day 2020, Income Movement urges people to remind ourselves that the “normal” way we treated the planet might not be worth going back to. It might be time for some reimagining, and refocusing of our resources.

But how do we do this, when so many are and will continue to struggle financially as a result of this crisis?

The truth is, if you don’t have the income to feed your children, pay your bills, or keep a safe roof over your head, you don’t have the luxury of time, energy, or financial resources to work on changing the world around you. Coronavirus has put millions more people in financial desperation, people who now focus much of their energy on the next meal and the next mortgage or rent payment. Climate change and the health of the planet is even further from people’s minds, appropriately so.

This is an important reason why Income Movement and other organizations and leaders support an emergency universal basic income as a response to the COVID-19 crisis. And why we work to make UBI permanent.

When we have breathing room financially, we can focus on global needs, and pay attention to the decisions our government is making about resource allocation and support. As individuals, we can choose to spend our money in ways that are beneficial not only for ourselves, but for the collective us: we can support small and local businesses and say no to big box stores, who sell goods at prices that aren’t reflective of the external costs of climate change. We can buy organic or take part in renewable energy programs. We can take the time to ask ourselves which purchases will go towards our family’s long term financial health as well as the health of the planet. We can reimagine the role of consumerism in our lives.

UBI isn’t just a way to help people live with more dignity — it’s a way to help people live with more mindfulness — a universal basic income gives people the option to say no to companies that abuse the environment or abuse their workers. A universal basic income gives people the space to think not just about their own individual survival, but the survival of the human race, and the planet on which we live. A universal basic income gives people the option to say no to destructive corporate interests, and yes to a way of life that is reflective of their values and their long-term health and wellbeing.

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