As a relentless optimist, I am prone to visions of utopian splendor. In the best of times, this trait smacks certain people as naïve, privileged, and annoying. Standing on the precipice of insidious disease, widespread death, and potential economic ruin, attempting to manifest utopic outcomes could prove even more fraught, absurd, and dangerous. And yet, if we cannot conjure images of idyll while the republic crumbles, there will never be a good time to dream.
The past weeks have proven that our systems fundamental and ancillary do not function in an optimal fashion. Even the staunchest supporter of the status quo must allow that improvements are warranted. I would strongly prefer a wholesale re-envisioning of the entire enterprise, from the town hall to the seats of federal power, from the bodega to the boardroom. I recognize that may be a bit radical for some tastes. Regardless, we should all be able to agree that the middle has shifted; that a post-virus reconfiguration of some stripe must occur.
I am inured to the criticism that my imaginings of a more egalitarian, compassionate, protective, and inclusive socioeconomic structure are pure fantasy. I am nonetheless disappointed that despite the macro, survival-based concerns that now face all of the world’s citizens, people are still engaged in the pettiest of squabbles. Professionally engaged in the resolution of disputes, many of these ridiculous quarrels are coming across my desk and it is equal parts maddening and depressing.
I recognize that people have a surfeit of time on their hands; I know that people are feeling deep-rooted existential dread; I know that folks are cooped with up with other people that they may or may not like. Still, there is no excuse to create conflict where none need exist. It is akin to trimming a tiny bonzai tree while the entire forest is on fire.
The energy of this misplaced ire could be directed into more useful emotions: unconditional love, cathartic sadness, inexplicable joy. The time spent pontificating about and discussing these useless fights could be spent on more productive endeavors: volunteering to safely deliver lunches to front-line health care workers, teaching a child a new math concept, finally reorganizing that cluttered space under the stairs. The money spent on legal battles could be diverted to any number of more worthy causes: there are an unbelievable amount of people in immediate or imminent need.
In the face of uncertainty, there is an unfortunate tendency in a segment of the population to attempt to assert dominance, to elevate self-interest over that of the communal, to hoard resources, even if they are not scarce. This is billed as an admirable survival instinct, but it is just another manifestation of an uncontrolled ego, of one who believes that he or she is more worthy of life than another, is more deserving of a better existence than a fellow human.
The courtroom, like the stock market and the grocery market, is a common battleground for those who subscribe to that particular worldview, a place for them to try to subvert the needs or wants of others. In normal times, the penchant for these strategic machinations is already distasteful. Those still focused on this behavior when in the midst of a global pandemic are taking it to a level that would be comical were it not so destructive.
As we head deeper into the unknown, our only focus should be on the health and safety of our communities, with a small allowance for daydreaming of the system that we deserve.