Piecing Together a Broken Society
My guide to re-glueing the world
Imagine you’re sitting on your couch, binge watching Netflix, and a tornado spawns on your area rug.
You’d convince yourself you were seeing things, until the turbulent winds picked you up, couch and all, and tossed you skywards. You’d probably grip the couch for dear life, do your best to dodge the flying tchotchkes, and wait out this weird, unpredictable storm.
The winds would slow, your couch would land atop your ficus, and the dust would eventually settle. For a moment you would breathe and try to regain your composure. After agonising moments, you would stand up, observe the surrounding mess, and… scream.
How will you replace everything you’ve lost? Your TV was still being financed, and the storm marred your wedding scrapbook. You can hardly fathom the financial ruin you’re in, because the emotional ruin is devastating. You would cry, you would pound your fists against the dirty floor, and you’d wonder how you’d ever recover.
I hope that you’d look for your phone. You would type frantic texts to your friend group on a cracked screen. They would all come to your house. They would bring plastic bags and rubber gloves. Your best friend would show up with pizza, because they know how you have trouble eating when you’re stressed.
They would hold you, and you’d cry again, and then you’d pick up part of a broken vase. You’d put it in a shoe box, and you’d search for the remaining pieces. Once you’d collected them, you would hand them to your artsy friend along with a bottle of superglue and they would work their magic.
As the evening turned into night, you would eat pizza, commiserate with loved ones, and rebuild your grandmother’s heirloom vase. Eventually, you would see the light at the end of the tunnel.
That’s how we’re going to start.
2020 is that tornado. except it’s more a tornado, fire, and hurricane all getting together for an unauthorised house party. Technically, everything had been on fire for forever, but I digress. We’re still swinging through the air on our easy chairs and hoping to land in one piece. People are resilient, and we’ve sent group texts for reconnaissance and grabbed our intact vase before it could smash against the wall. We are strong, but it bears repeating that we haven’t even landed.
If you need to cling to the armrests and scream to survive, then cling to the armrests and scream. You can ask your friends for help and pick up smashed picture frames when you have purchase on the carpet.
Similarly, you can try to fix society when you’re not in immediate danger yourself.
Many groups right now are pushing for Americans to vote. Voting is the main method we have for fixing our country, kind of like calling the insurance company after your house tornado hits. Unfortunately, some people don’t have access to this homeowner’s insurance. Not everyone can find their phone, or muster up the willpower to speak immediately after a disaster strikes. It should be easy, but it isn’t.
For Americans who can’t vote due to various barriers, “Get Out The Vote” campaigns can feel ironically disheartening. Knowing that your ballot is your megaphone leaves you feeling muted when voting is inaccessible, which is why these campaigns are important. These campaigns challenge the numerous barriers faced by potential voters. Simultaneously, fighting for progress takes diverse forms, and we should amplify these forms as well.
Start small. Returning to the metaphor, calling up your friends is always my first step. You don’t have to build a perfect society in a day, and you don’t need to do it alone. Talk to your friends when you’re in need and ask them what they need. It’s so much easier to fight injustice when we’ve taken care of ourselves and our own.
Once you’ve roused your comrades-in-arms, I recommend finding that first piece of the vase. It often helps me to pick one tiny thing that I can do quickly and easily when I have a daunting project, because it shows you that progress is possible.
I personally intend to donate to a local charity that I believe in here in the UK, Punk Against Poverty. Perhaps you could locate your local food pantry. You can always offer canned food that you have in excess, or buy specific things to donate, but I think it’s important to remember small luxuries. Depending on your food pantry’s rules, you might be able to donate extra garden produce and herbs; in my experience, fresh produce and seasonings are highly sought after and never sufficiently donated. I feel it’s worth repeating that people in need still desire and deserve the niceties of modern life, and are probably sick to death of the same cheap shelf-stable foods. Check with what your local pantry wants. If you lack spare money or food, you can always spread the word about a local pantry on social media.
Once I’ve helped my friends and my local community, I begin thinking bigger. No, not bigger as in “fix the entirety of society”, but bigger as in a regional special interest charity that could use time, money, or an amplified voice. When I lived Stateside, I supported the Texas Equal Access fund, an organisation that provides support for people seeking an abortion. Many amazing charities exist beyond the commonly discussed national organisations. In my experience, regional charities often have endless tasks for you to do, desperately need financial donations, and are especially capable of helping individuals and specific communities.
There are many ways for you to find good charities. On Facebook, search for a local group and ask the members about their favourite organisations. Once you have a list of options, use a website like Charity Navigator to judge each charity’s worthiness. You want to avoid any that seem to funnel most of their money into their board of directors. If you use these resources, you should be able to discover some excellent charities to work with.
Once you’ve taken care of your local community, it is important to do an inventory on how you’re handling your commitments. Donating requires money and volunteering expends a lot of valuable energy. If I’m confident that I and my budget can handle more work, there are numerous ways that I keep fighting against societal wrongs.
I start looking at bigger picture causes. In our house tornado metaphor, you’ve got broken vases glued back together, debris thrown away, and the dirt and dust cleaned up. What you probably have now is the worst decorated living room ever. You begrudgingly threw out your television, your coffee table is shabby and chipped, and the rest of your furniture is haphazardly strewn around the room. Assuming you’re not wealthy enough to hire an interior designer and replace everything, you’ll still need to pick specific projects. Perhaps you truly consider what changes you want to make. These changes may be long overdue. Was that coffee table clashing colour-wise, anyway? Move it to the garage so you can repaint it later. Do you want your couch where it was, or should you place it somewhere less chilly? It’s a shame that you lost your TV, but now you have an excuse to get the bigger, improved model.
I’m not calling a disastrous pandemic and political situation positive. Rather, they’re wake-up calls. When we rebuild following a disaster, it makes little sense to return to “normal” when normal wasn’t working. For people of colour, LGBT+ communities, and economically disadvantaged populations, normal society was a complete disaster. Instead of electing “normal” public officials, perhaps find one that’s abnormally good and vote for them. Instead of hoping your candidate wins and eases your worries, use that worry to improve your world.
Pick political causes that you believe in, and start raising your voice for them. Speak with friends and family about your political beliefs. Email your representatives; I like to use ResistBot. But as you fight the good fight, remember to take care of yourself. We’re living in scary times, and we can’t save the world if we haven’t even survived it ourselves. Cry and scream when you need to. Be kind to your planet, be kind to your community, and over all else, be kind to yourself. I will be.