Lifelet: We interrupt our normal programming for

Day 140 of Self Quarantine             Covid 19 Deaths in U.S.:  154,000

Lifelet: We interrupt our normal programming for …

Until I met Russ Ackoff‘s graduate students, I didn’t understand what an existential crisis was.  Russ’s grad students kept talking about their Ackovian existential crises.  A concise definition from Wikipedia:

“Existential crises are moments when individuals question whether their lives have meaning, purpose, or value.[1] It may be commonly, but not necessarily, tied to depression or inevitably negative speculations on purpose in life (e.g., “if one day I will be forgotten, what is the point of all of my work?”). This issue of the meaning and purpose of human existence is a major focus of the philosophical tradition of existentialism.”

As I reflect on the deep dark hole of 2020, I disagree with the definition.  Most of the existential crises that I list out each day are externally generated.  These existential crises are felt by more than half of the US population – each and every day.

Funn captures these feelings in an elegant diagram:

Me in Crisis by D. J. Funn

My list of existential crises with different time horizons and different impacts would include:

    • The Climate Crisis
    • The Covid 19 pandemic and potential future pandemics
      • The 150,000 dead and counting on the way to 300,000 lives and families destroyed in 2020 in the US
    • The economic destruction due to the pandemic
    • The impending death of American Democracy due to he who shall not be named and his sycophant enablers
    • The Black Lives Matter movement – none of us can be free until all of us are free and treated equally
    • The depravity and immorality of the Catholic Church and their continuing cover-up of the horrors of sexually deviant priests and nuns
    • The education crisis for our K-12 students due to the botched Covid 19 pandemic response by he who shall not be named
    • My personal journey to rebuilding resilience

As an introvert, I love the internet memes of “I am an introvert.  I’ve been training for self-quarantine all my life.”

But I miss interacting with my four grand children and my three children.  And my siblings, and colleagues and friends.

I try to free write each day on what all these crises mean and can the American experiment hold on long enough for a regime change.

Our world is awash in simultaneous existential crises.  Each of these crises has a different time horizon.  The longest-lived existential crisis is the original sin of the American experiment – structural racism.  On a shorter horizon but with cataclysmic effects for humans is the climate crisis.  In our immediate time horizon is the global Covid 19 pandemic which killed 700,000 humans in six months with no end in sight. Due to the pandemic, we have an economic crisis which has put 40 million American citizens out of work.  Due to the pandemic we have an education crisis that is affecting the socialization of our youngest citizens and limiting the education of our university students who are paying high tuition for a poor online experience.  Meanwhile our poorest paid “essential workers” are putting their lives at risk at work, while highly paid higher tech workers can work from home.  The increasingly polarized political parties and extremes of actions by the current administration show the checks and balances we thought were in our American Democracy do not afford governance protections leading to another existential crisis.

Each of these existential crises has a different subset of the population that is out demonstrating in the streets working against the problem, but not offering solutions that are more than bandaids.  The demonstrators do look to the government to fund solutions, but each crisis requires on beyond trillions of dollars.  Yet, with enough civil unrest, governments do respond:

“While researching for her book Why Civil Resistance Works, Harvard political scientist Erica Chenoweth discovered a surprising and empowering truth about the science of revolution: throughout the twentieth century, every single nonviolent movement to create political change that received active participation from at least 3.5 percent of the population succeeded. Every single one. And many succeeded with many fewer people.

“What’s more, Chenoweth and her colleagues found that nonviolent movements tend to help foster democracy. That’s a clear sign that what the climate movement is doing is already working— they just need your help.”

Holthaus, Eric. The Future Earth (p. 56). HarperOne. Kindle Edition.

However, 40% of us can’t take to the streets to demonstrate due to disabilities or fear of contracting Covid due to underlying health conditions.

In conjunction with these existential crises, religious affiliation is decreasing dramatically while those who declare themselves to be evangelical are also science deniers.  The post truth economy, conspiracy theories, #Metoo culture wars make it hard to carry on civil discourse.

These existential crises and siloed proposed solutions to these crises indicate that something needs to change AND soon.

The question that keeps coming up for me is:

      • We will get back to a normal life, right?

I have learned a new term for the first hours of my every day – doom scrolling.  As I check in with the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Seattle Times, and the twitterverse, I come across a constant stream of:

“Wait, it gets worse. Trump, his officials and their allies in the Senate have been totally committed to the idea that the U.S. economy will experience a stunningly rapid recovery despite the wave of new infections and deaths. They bought into that view so completely that they seem incapable of taking on board the overwhelming evidence that it isn’t happening.” – NY Times, Paul Krugman

The dark side of my existential crises sees Civil War II emerging either before or after election day as the deep cultural divide wants a regime change on one side and an authoritarian fascist on the other side.

Contrast between the culture warriors – racist fascists with long guns at Michigan State capital versus the wall of moms in Portland, OR

I’ve lived through the racism of George Wallace, the dark days of Nixon, the Vietnam War, the President Reagan Alzheimer’s cover up by his sycophants to keep him in office, Gulf Wars I and II, and race riots in many cities at many different times.  Yet, I always believed that our democracy had checks and balances.  During the last four years, I find that those checks and balances were only there if the women and men elected and appointed operated with good will and understood their oath to the constitution.

So each morning and evening, I wait for the Breaking News of “we interrupt this program to …” to see what stupid, disastrous, and criminal wrong doings he who shall not be named has done today.

I am bone tired.

I want 2020 to end so I can get back to my personal resilience building.

I want to be able to freely and without fear of Covid 19 be able to hug my grand kids again and again.

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