We were made for these times

Dis­rup­tion has hand­ed us an oppor­tu­ni­ty to pro­mote some deeply impor­tant sto­ries that can change the world. Here’s how you can do your part to hack the zeit­geist.  

Image by Iris Maertens for Dancing Fox

We swim in a sea of invis­i­ble sto­ries that shape what’s nor­mal, what’s right, and what’s pos­si­ble. But the calm waters of “the nor­mal” are gone?—?as if an entire ocean of nor­mal­i­ty had been swal­lowed by three broth­er giants named Covid-19, George Floyd’s Mur­der, and Eco­nom­ic Freefall. Old sto­ries, once strong?—?that noth­ing can shut down the econ­o­my, that you can’t fight city hall (and their love of con­fed­er­ate stat­ues), that growth is more impor­tant than human lives?—?are sud­den­ly as weak as Don­ald Trump’s vocab­u­lary.

The foun­da­tions of cul­ture lie in the sto­ries we col­lec­tive­ly hold true. When seis­mic events shake our faith in some of those sto­ries, they col­lapse. But as one sto­ry dies, anoth­er springs up to replace it. And with the changes in the sto­ries that define what’s right, what’s nor­mal, and what’s pos­si­ble come changes to our indi­vid­u­al and col­lec­tive behav­iour.

So what if we, as seek­ers of a bet­ter future, were to hack those sto­ries? To inten­tion­al­ly flood the zeit­geist with the best of them, the ones that pro­pel us for­ward? The ones that make stronger our efforts to har­ness belief, behav­iour, and pol­i­cy toward build­ing a future in which we are kinder to nature and to each oth­er, where the needs of the many out­weigh the desires of the few, and com­mu­ni­ty and col­lec­tive action help us over­come inequal­i­ty, injus­tice, and the bad old ways of the past?

Covid-19 made some very impor­tant sto­ries blaze with new truth: the sto­ry that every­thing is con­nect­ed, that every choice mat­ters, that health is more impor­tant than wealth, that human beings are capa­ble of incred­i­ble cre­ativ­i­ty and kind­ness, that when we work togeth­er we can do incred­i­ble things. All of the­se tiny lessons have been bol­stered immense­ly by proofs large and small. A report in Nature reveals that lock­down efforts in Europe alone pre­vent­ed more than 3 mil­lion deaths: prob­a­bly the great­est col­lec­tive human life-sav­ing effort in his­to­ry. Our social media chan­nels are filled with exam­ples of hero­ism and gen­eros­i­ty and extra­or­di­nary cre­ativ­i­ty.

And the col­lec­tive con­ver­sa­tion which we con­duct on social media is buzzing like a hive under attack from a Mur­der Hor­net. In the mon­th of June, 79 mil­lion peo­ple were part of a con­ver­sa­tion on Face­book, Twit­ter, Linked­In and Insta­gram about the “#NewNor­mal.”

We can innoc­u­late that con­ver­sa­tion from the dead­ly virus of “Busi­ness as Usu­al” and call for the world to #Build­Back­Bet­ter. We can strength­en the sto­ries that will make the caus­es of equal­i­ty and respect for nature stronger in the post-covid world.

A move­ment of more than 2000 social change and activist groups, the Break Free From Plas­tic move­ment, is dri­ving a new ini­tia­tive, We Were Made for The­se Times, col­lect­ing togeth­er eight lessons of the pan­demic as sto­ries that can form the bedrock of a future free not of plas­tic pol­lu­tion, cli­mate change, inequal­i­ty, racism, and all the injus­tices and ills of the old nor­mal.

Artist Iris Maerten’s ver­sions of the sto­ries.

This is an open source cam­paign. You can con­tribute and par­tic­i­pate in many ways:

  • Fol­low the campaign’s Insta­gram and Twit­ter accounts
  • Share the sto­ries & images at WeWereMadeForTheseTimes.net on social media with the hash­tags #NewNor­mal and #Build­Back­Bet­ter. You’re wel­come to mod­i­fy and brand them any way you like.
  • Share oth­er exam­ples and images that illus­trate each of the sto­ries, and cir­cu­late them with the same hash­tags
  • Encour­age your friends fol­low­ers to share them, engage with the beau­ti­ful ques­tions, mash them up and rein­ter­pret them
  • If you’re an artist, cre­ate your own inter­pre­ta­tions of the sto­ries
  • If you’re a social change or activist group, com­mis­sion artists to cre­ate new inter­pre­ta­tions. (And pay them! Many artists are strug­gling at the moment!)

Right now, hun­dreds of mil­lions of peo­ple are over­shar­ing on social media like nev­er before. Shap­ing the chaos into cul­ture, and infect­ing the zeit­geist with every tweet, tik-tok, insta, and Face­book post they share.

Great thinkers like Rebec­ca Sol­nit, Arund­hati Roy, George Mon­biot and Kim Stan­ley Robin­son are writ­ing amaz­ing, inspir­ing, thought-pro­vok­ing pieces about the lessons of the pan­demic that we can push out into the glob­al con­ver­sa­tion.

Through our social media chan­nels, we can encour­age our friends and fol­low­ers to join us in cre­at­ing a glob­al, com­mu­ni­ty-dri­ven wave of kind­ness, gen­eros­i­ty, cre­ativ­i­ty and hope in the name of the bet­ter future we want to build: a #Return­To­Bet­ter rather than a #Returnto­Nor­mal.

We do not get to choose the moments we are born into, but we are able to choose how we respond. And as sto­ry-mak­ers and cul­ture-hack­ers, our words and our actions hold incred­i­ble pow­er. They are the mus­cles of hope. The pan­demic is only one of humanity’s many challenges?—?but it has the poten­tial to be the wake up call to a great oppor­tu­ni­ty.

Help the­se sto­ries spread. Make them stronger. Look at your news feed through their lens?—?what events are they rhyming with? Share them. It will make you feel bet­ter. As Claris­sa Pinko­la Estés famous­ly said

…One of the most calm­ing and pow­er­ful actions you can do to inter­vene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your soul. Soul on deck shi­nes like gold in dark times… Do not despair. We were made for the­se times.


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