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.
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.
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.