The world changed on March 12, 2020. Yes, this is a North American centred view of the world given that the world changed for China 2 months ago, Iran and Italy changed two weeks ago, and it has not yet changed for most of the African continent, but that is personal relativity for you.
Psychologist coined the term “flashbulb memories” to reference events that are so experientially profound that they are remembered with vivid clarity and significance. Since memory is an individual thing, the term does not speak directly to the collective or shared memories of a group of people or a culture; although many of the flashbulb memories a person has are shared with larger groups of people.
For example, I remember where I was and what I was doing when I heard that a plane had hit the North Tower of the World Trade Centre on September 11, 2001. I can also remember very clearly where I was when I found out that my father had died and I am certain that most people have no idea where they where or what they were doing at at 8 am on January 29, 2012.
Generally speaking, these types of events have such a profound impact on ones identity that they end-up toggling “the way it is” to “the way it was” creating a new beginning. Other examples are the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the end of the second world war, the assignations of JFK and MLK, and the Challenger explosion.
12/3 is different for a few reasons. As mentioned above, China, Iran and Italy were dealing with it well before Donald Trump had his 9 PM press conference on the second Thursday of March.. This indicates that belief / subjective reality has more to do with crossing the threshold into the new “now” than objective reality. This makes pin pointing a specific date and time for this moment more challenging. Unlike a crash or death, the instant ones brain flips a belief switch will be determined by things other than demonstrable facts.
Some people in North America had identified that things had changed a few months ago and were subsequently labelled “chicken-littlers,” crazy, or fear mongers. What are the chances that a virus that is impacting China could have any consequence on the rest of the world, plus, what party are these whiners from? Well, the chances are high because there are so many people and so much travel from almost anywhere to almost anywhere else, and political beliefs are not relevant when it comes to listening and hearing what professional risk managers have to say.
And yet, here we are.
My biggest concern is not that I will die because of this, nor that Heather or anyone in my family will die. I have had to accepted that there is a small chance that someone I know and care about will not see the other side of this. That sucks for lack of a better way to describe it, but it has always been true that as we age our chances of seeing next year drop. People are born, people live, and people die. The cycle of life is just one of the unpleasant things about being born and accepting the temporary nature of being alive is something that we all have to come to terms with.
What I am most concerned about is the lack of alignment that 12/3 demonstrates. It is one thing to be 6 weeks behind the tone or mood of the people in China, given the late onset of the viruses impact on the day to day life of people in North America, it is an entirely different thing to be unaligned with other people who are being drawn into the event at the exact same time.
With generation events that have a singular cause contained to a single moment of time, this misalignment does not happen. There will be latency between the event and when an individual person becomes aware of it which will cause a wave of enlightenment to roll through society, but all of the people will agree that a specific thing happened at a specific moment in time. This will remain true even when people believe the event was caused by different things and when different meanings are given to the surrounding events. No matter what else they might think, the common thread among all people will be the shared agreement that a specific thing occurred at a specific date and time. Great leaders will leverage this collective understandings to get their people moving forward in unison towards uncovering and establishing a new normal.
What we are in middle of right now is very different. While nearly all people will be impacted by 12/3 to some degree over the next year, we will not be unified by it being a singular event or an agreement that of what exactly happened. Instead, we will break off into faction who share only a belief of who is responsible and who to blame. And that is the biggest problem that humanity is going to face when it comes to getting our stride back.
Counter factuals will be promoted and whataboutism will be used to justify or vilify the actions that were or were not taken. All of it will amount to talking fiction with the aim of sustaining the narrative that puts the blame and responsibility onto someone else.
“They broke it so they need to fix it” or “they didn’t do enough to prevent it from happening” or “well thank God the BLANK party wasn’t in power when this happened because things could have been so much worse” will get tweeted and posted endlessly as people sit around waiting for someone else to make the world whole again.
The fact that the entire planet is completely dependent upon everything else to maintain the complex and fragile system that makes possible life as we know it and life in general is in risk of being overshadowed by the lack of agreement on what happened and the role that each one of us played in causing it. Until we unite around something, take responsibility for our future, and begin to move in one direction together for the good of our species and all living beings, we are going to continue to stumble and fall.