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This isn’t going to be one of my regular column articles. It’s more casual. Probably less refined too. Fewer hours have been spent crafting it — we’ve all been a little preoccupied. It’s definitely a break from the norm of my column. But I think that break is not only warranted but valuable at this moment. These last couple of weeks have been a break from normality in general, and I believe my column should reflect that — not hide from it.
Still, it is important that this is only that — a break — and not a permanent trend.
It seems wrong to write about something unrelated to this global pandemic the world is in. If the world feels like it’s ending to so many, surely we have surpassed the point of caring about ‘petty’ personal issues? How can I bring myself to write a column about my identity and society if literally no one’s identity or any society could matter in a few months?
Or at least that’s what I thought a couple of days ago while looking at my list of ideas for this column that did not include the ‘in case of global pandemic’ option. And I suppose to some extent it is still true as — here I am — not writing about what I usually would.
I found myself frustrated — angered, even — by the fact that nothing that usually matters to me could hold any water in my mind. Knowing that I am not alone in this feeling, I figured I would try to channel my anger into something useful. I just had no idea what that was.
“Resentment is like drinking poison and hoping it will kill your enemies” — a Nelson Mandela quote that ran through my mind while I was busy being mad at a virus that, quite literally, couldn’t care less about me. And this sparked the realization that it was I, who was choosing to be angered. It was I, who was choosing to not let the things that usually matter to me, matter. I chose to push aside the issues that I am usually most passionate about. The virus did not do that for me, or you, or anyone. That is a choice we are actively making.
One of the most troubling effects of this virus to me is the apocalyptic sentiment it has aroused in us. A big part of that is what I described. As the virus affects more and more people, it feels like nothing matters anymore. But it is only the end of the world if we let it be. If society falls apart — which is to say we find ourselves living some dystopian future — that will only be because we let it happen.
The troubling thing is that, in large part, it is in our control.
Thus, we should all choose to not drink our own ‘poison’. Let’s choose not to be angered by how this virus is changing our lives. Let’s choose to continue to care about all the things we always do. Society can not possibly fall apart if we all continue to care. That is the ‘something useful’ we can all channel our energy to. That is how we will ensure that this is a break from normality and not a new normal in these times.
If you care about climate change, set your mind to that. If you care about politics, do that. If you care about social justice, make social change. I write this column because I care about the experiences of the African diaspora, and I am going to continue to do that. Heck, if you care about cooking, or music, or dance, or video games, do that! Anything you care about — supposedly ‘important’ or not — continue to care about it.
There are, of course, things that it is just not possible to do — watching live sports comes to mind immediately. (And there are good reasons for that; please follow all of the instructions of governments and experts). But just because we cannot DO certain things doesn’t mean we are unable to CARE about them too. We can care about sports without watching it live. We can care about the climate without being outside. We can advocate for our interests while not being around people. We must simply be creative.
So I will spare you the obligatory calls to stay safe and healthy. I will, instead, urge us to love the things we always do. We must believe in our ability to overcome this pandemic while still loving what we love — finding ways to continue to participate in them however we can. As this is where we will find relief from the frustration of the times in which we are living. Again, it is only the end of the world if we let it be.
I will be back in two weeks with a regular column. Hopefully, it can feel ‘regular’ by then.
Marcus B. Montague-Mfuni ’23, a Crimson Editorial editor, lives in Pennypacker Hall. His column appears on alternate Wednesdays.
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