by Yasmeen Adin
I am stuck in Berkeley for the foreseeable future. At least until travel restrictions back home loosen up. Even then, if I am able to go back home, it remains unclear if I will be able to return to the US. Amidst all this uncertainty, finding any glimpse of positivity can be difficult. Feeling obliged to be positive feels even worse during a global crisis that directly affects the most vulnerable among us. The constant reminders to remain positive while navigating the uncertainty of the situation are becoming draining and unbearable. I am frustrated and anxious and depriving myself from the right to feel so in order to convince myself that everything is okay. But it is not. Yet what has been keeping me and many others grounded so far is the sense of community that was immediately cultivated during this crisis.
From the earliest stages of the progression of this pandemic, it became clear that the ideals valued the most in our modern capitalist societies would get us nowhere. The evils of this system that governs us, from our day-to-day lives to the institutional level, were exposed to everyone. Since when is meeting the deadline of a paper considered more important than mourning the death of a beloved person who did not even get a proper funeral? Since when is profiting off of the backs of workers considered more important than their health and well-being? Since when is physically hurting others to get a roll of toilet paper considered more important than putting those more in need first? Glorifying these flaws in the name of individualism, productivity, and economic growth contribute to normalizing and embedding them in our behaviors and cultures. But there are those who refuse these norms and resist back against them. They choose collectivism in their resistance to showcase the inadequacy of our governments.
Since the very first few days of the shelter-in-place order and social distancing that led to many folks leaving or losing their jobs, links and databases to independently-initiated funds have started circulating. They act as financial compensation for BIPOC, disabled, unemployed, houseless, and LGBTQIA+ folks, and they uplift creatives and freelancers and others who live paycheck to paycheck. Others began tabling to give out food, basic medical services, offer shelter, and fulfill other needs that governments and corporations have failed to address. Even after weeks of debate, the work that these institutions have accomplished (i.e. the stimulus package, which was only passed after weeks of debate), does not help many people who still lack access to basic needs. As a result, acts of humanity and solidarity performed by individuals and nonprofit organizations are being highlighted and publicized to hide the failure of the systems that were supposed to serve us. However, they also prove that what will get us through this eventually will be our fight as a community, a unit, a collective, not individual corporate leaders or a collapsing government.