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Imagining Hope during COVID-19 Crisis

This is Day I-don’t-know-because-they’re-all-blurring-together of being camped out at home, social distancing style. My wife is doing “remote learning” with our child while I try to figure out what work I can do, and then we’ll switch so she can work. Like so many others, we’re going mad trying to work full time and parent full time at the same time – an impossible position to be in.

This is a scary time. After consecutive years of rapid growth of my business and my two best years financially, I’ve had an unusually slow winter, probably because I slacked off on my marketing last year when I got busy – oops. So, that makes it even scarier facing the possibility of months without paid work, and maybe a recession when that’s over where professional photography may be a service people won’t be able to afford. My family has the privilege of a strong safety net but it’s possible my business wouldn’t survive a recession. Every photographer I know is facing this situation – and other freelancers, and restaurant workers, and so many more. Then there are the people who have to work so the rest of us can have groceries, etc. And then there are the medical workers, who are or will be working extreme hours often with inadequate protective measures.

The bigger picture is scary too. I’m worried about my parents (both approaching 80), my sister-in-law (a doctor in Boston) and other vulnerable loved ones. People we know will die from this. I fear the devastation to the most vulnerable populations from the disease itself and the broader economic impact, and the possibility of more authoritarian governments arising – especially here. The rich will prey on foreclosures and evictions to gain more property and wealth. The 1% are already pushing through or proposing policies that enrich them, spread fear and conflict, damage the earth, and consolidate their power, like rolling back environmental protections, delegitimizing native tribes, providing financial stimulus for the rich instead of working people (= paying bonuses instead of helping people pay rent/mortgages and buy food, also propping up fossil fuel-based industries instead of subsidizing the move to a carbon-neutral economy), eliminating the payroll tax (= bankrupt or privatize social security), and closing borders (= blaming “the other”).

But this is also a time of incredible possibility. It is clearly good for the climate crisis for the economy to slow down, and times of crisis are when new ways of doing things can emerge more rapidly. Times like this are when ideas like Medicare For All / single-payer health care, universal basic income, and the Green New Deal can become reality – policies that are based on making sure everyone is safe and healthy, giving all people a full voice in society, and creating a livable world for everyone. These things won’t happen on their own, but only if we work for them.

The question is, which path will we choose? I intend to use this time to work for the world I want. I’ve started small, organizing a “neighborhood scream” to vent our frustration and anxiety together. I see neighbors organizing mutual aid groups, farmers setting up a delivery service in lieu of farmers’ markets, companies pivoting to produce ventilators and personal protective equipment, and even workers protesting (marching 6 feet apart) to demand that their company make ventilators. Wow!

I want to know what new possibilities you are seeing in the world. What new ways are you finding to connect with people? Where do you see hope and humor? How are you working with your neighbors or co-workers or other networks to help people or solve problems? How can we mobilize the world to respond to the climate crisis the way we have for COVID-19? Leave a comment or drop me a line!

John Benford

Author

John Benford is a commercial photographer, creating honest portrait and lifestyle images and powerful architectural images for commercial and editorial clients of all sizes. His work centers on themes of craftsmanship, honest work, relationship to the land, and human connection. See his work at johnbenfordphoto.com or follow him on Instagram @jbenfordphoto

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