Deconstruction has consequences. Things collapse.
When I started this blog in January, 2022, we were still crawling out of our Covid Caves, blinking our eyes, looking about with curiosity and uncertainty. In my first posting I observed: “I don’t believe we will ‘go back to normal’ but will collectively create a new ‘normal’ “. Soon, I began to notice numerous deconstructions.
Over the intervening months, I have grown in the conviction that one of the most significant dimensions of the Covid 19 impact is some degree of global deconstruction of just about everything. The “time-out” we all took provided the opportunity to see more clearly what was not working and the time to reflect on our potential alternatives. The adaptations we made to accommodate Covid restrictions turned out to offer some innovative and sometimes preferred options. Some common viewpoints shifted, and dependencies were revealed: e.g., we needed the grocery store to stay open and functional; we needed the garbage collection to continue uninterrupted. New heroes!
This global deconstruction is not manifest as the abrupt ending of anything though it has seemed to me that there are a few examples of that happening, e.g., the dominance of the Russian military proving to be untrue and the connectivity among members of the European Union suddenly strengthening. More often, there are simply indicators that things are not working well and the reasons for this are apparent, e.g., racial inequities in the delivery of health care in the U.S. We had documented these racial inequities for decades; during Covid, it dramatically expressed itself as inferior care provision and the inflation of death rates for the racially marginalized in our society.
There is no question that many humans want to return to our prior state of being; concurrently, many humans have no desire to return to our prior state of being. We are collectively watching these competing desires manifest. And the manifestation is often not expressed as direct conflict between two forces but as the quiet persistent collapse of what once was.
Some examples in the U.S. economy have become repetitious and nuanced. For weeks we learned about the “great resignation” which NPR opted to rename the “great renegotiation”. After their Covid absence, many employees elected to resign their jobs or simply not return to them. More recently a related concern has focused on “quiet quitting” where employees do precisely what the job requires, and no more. Gallup recently reported that this describes half of current employees in the US. It has highlighted the degree to which many jobs inflated expectations of employees to maximize productivity. Solutions seem elusive, so employees enforced restricting their work to prevent being exploited.
As data emerged about people not returning to work, it was noted that some industries faced greater challenges. Not surprisingly, these industries did not have a history of caring for or rewarding employees. Disrupted air travel has also become commonplace, with delayed or cancelled flights. Central to this trend is the lack of personnel for flights and flight management. In many industries, employee groups are negotiating for total or partial work in their homes, and office space is suddenly open territory. For many employees, it is less worrisome to risk getting fired because there are many open jobs. For employers, firing may result in the inability to replace the employee.
These are examples of a collapse of what was, and we have limited insight into what is emerging. Collapse involves things falling apart, crumbling, disintegrating. Some believe eventually we will go back to where we were before. I do not share this view. I find myself far more fascinated by the innovations and options emerging, the cultural and generational shifts demonstrating that a return to the past is no longer an option. Energy and time invested in recreating the past seems wasteful and naïve.
So, I find myself celebrating “collapse”, watching for it attentively, noting its speed and nature. I am also watching the “new” emerging. Here is an example: two current Florida headlines:
1. Florida's DeSantis flies dozens of "illegal immigrants" to Martha's Vineyard, escalating tactic against "sanctuary destinations"
2. Activist Maxwell Frost, 25, Wins Florida Primary, Paving Path to Become First Gen Z Member of Congress.
These juxtapositions of past and future, of collapse and emergence, are the stuff of my current meditation on deconstruction. They strengthen my capacity for hope and imagination.
"Things fall apart; the center cannot hold”
- William Butler Yeats -