COVID-19 may very well be a catalyst for a spiritual revolution. It definitely has potential. One of America’s greatest and most destructive illusions is that we are all mere individuals and that if we all just do our own thing, seeking to satisfy our individual desires, achieve wealth and success, fulfill our dreams and/or follow our own individual hearts, that things will all work out and our nation will be strong. Way back in the day, Margaret Thatcher infamously declared that “there is no such thing as society.” We’re all just individuals, doing our own thing. Hence the role of government, as most Americans have been trained to see it, is to ensure that all individuals are free.
In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes.Judges 17:6
COVID-19 exposes the bankruptcy of this approach, speaking both literally and metaphorically. Our healthcare system is built on the disturbing premise that it’s good and proper for American corporations to exploit people’s illnesses for profit. After all, if individuals are getting filthy rich from healthcare, that’s just part of the American economic system: we all pursue our own individual interests. No one has any moral grounds for throwing shade on CEO’s for makin’ it rain when we’re all just out there doing our own thing. In a system where everyone is concerned with their own self-interests, how can anyone have the moral authority to criticize corporate executives?
COVID-19, however, is complicating our simplistic notions of individual freedom. It’s blazing through the States like a California forest fire.
Our healthcare system is built for profit, not for protecting people — and over the last decade or so, we Americans been very explicit as to why we have rejected universal healthcare systems. We rejected universal healthcare because we were/are paranoid about even the possible idea that our “individual freedom” will be compromised.
COVID-19 is a pandemic, and universal healthcare systems are best positioned to respond quickly. It isn’t a guarantee against a viral crisis, but a centralized public system is the only way to put into place universal measures and plans so that we can react appropriately to a pandemic.
What makes it worse is that our political system is so divided that we can’t even reach basic agreements as to how to react to it. We are so intoxicated with individualism that have all turned to tribalism and cultural warfare to protect what we believe are our individual self-interests. It’s certainly a tragic irony that our individualism has led to tribalism, and that’s a discussion all its own, but for the current moment it’s fairly self-evident that our political system has become so corrupted, so tribalistic and toxic that we can’t respond as we ought.
A spiritual revolution is a shift from the centrality of the individual to the importance of the collective. It’s a shift from competition to cooperation. It’s a shift from the scientifically false belief that we are self-reliant to the biologically factual position that all biological life forms are interconnected and interdependent.
COVID-19 could act as a clarion call to just this form of a spiritual revolution. This would require us to truly do some introspection and ask some hard questions of ourselves. This is why we talk about a “spiritual” revolution, because it has to do with the way we perceive ourselves, at a fundamental level. And letting go of the obsession with one’s self has always been one of the central questions of any spiritual path or any spiritual philosophy.
Will COVID-19 be the catalyst for a spiritual revolution? At the very least, the virus has certainly given us a lot of time to think on it.