Take the plunge
I have never battled with a serious addiction. But having seen friends around me succumb to it, one of them even die from it, I can understand the almost impossible uphill struggle that rehab represents. It’s not just about kicking a habit. It is literally about ripping out whole parts of yourself and throwing them in the bin. Parts of yourself that you will never see again, that you will have to say goodbye to forever. It takes immense courage to make that leap of faith into the darkness, into a place where you’ve never been before. It is no wonder that many addicts don’t want to rehabilitate. Doing so would mean having to be someone else, a person that some of them don’t even know. It would literally mean starting life all over again.
But I’ve lied. I am in fact, an addict. And so are you. Because we have all been addicted to the hedonistic comforts of capitalism and consumerism. And all this time, just like the addict, we thought we were having fun when in reality we were unconditionally trading in too much of ourselves in exchange for the pleasures of getting high: the pleasures of shopping, travelling, eating out, meaningless entertainment. These pleasures are the trojan horses that capitalism offers us in order to enslave us financially and psychologically. They are identical to the euphoria that heroin provides, hijacking the addict’s “pleasure centre” while emptying their wallet and eroding their mental and physical health. Capitalism is a thief.
Yet this pandemic has to a large extent functioned as a rehab intervention for all of us. If a month before the lockdown people were told that they would have to give up all that they in fact did give up, they would have raised hell. Governments would have fallen across the world. This is exactly the behaviour of an addict who refuses to go to rehab. Yet four months into this lockdown, and surveys show that the vast majority of us don’t want to go back to how things were before. Because maybe, just maybe, we’ve kicked the addiction. We are beginning to realise that we were spending too much money. Working too much, stressing too much. Breathing too much air pollution and rushing through life pointlessly, filling our existence with meaningless things that were not real, genuine “pleasures”. They were drugs. We discovered that the real pleasures are much simpler, and surprisingly, are almost free. Like enjoying a stress-free walk. Cooking a bulk meal for the whole week. Skyping with your mom every day. And having actual moments when you can wilfully choose to do nothing, and not feel guilty about it.
Let’s be honest, like all rehabs, it hasn’t been easy. But our new existence is better for us, and it is better for the health of this planet. We are realising that what we had given up in our previous life was much, much more important than the “treats” that our consumerism-led system provided us in return. We had been robbed in broad daylight of our humanity.
Before I became furloughed, I was working in a marketing company. I have decades of experience working with challenging clients who are not open to innovation, spending much of my effort trying to push their boundaries and encourage them to adopt a more open mind. And what I’ve learned, the hard way, is that sometimes the only way to bring about innovation is innovation itself. Just like an addict, clients do not see the benefit of what you are trying to “sell” them, until they try it. Until you drag that addict into the car and drive them to the rehab centre. Until they experience the change themselves. This pandemic has done just that, and it is no surprise that all of a sudden you see half of companies deciding that they will move to 100% remote working. That cities will pedestrianise huge downtown areas. That maybe, real commitments towards curbing the CO2 Machine that is destroying the planet’s climate system will be made, as opposed to a growth frenzy disguised as a Green New Deal, which benefits only the rich and continues to destroy the planet. This pandemic has helped us see what change looks like.
We all miss our summer holidays. But they will be back. Next time you have a vacation, try to enjoy the free things: the sun. The salty sea breeze. The balmy temperature. The carefree smiles around you, as you quietly whisper to yourself: “Thank You”
(from the book Disposable Earth)