World Without Us

Written by Geoffrey Gillan

‘There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen.’ – attributed to VI Lenin

Nothing obscures better than language, and nothing unveils like the crisis, which shoves between the words to smack us with the shock of familiarity. It was always there, right in our faces. Too small to see, this new life got into the air between us; carried on the breath of our speech, dancing all the way into our metabolism, everywhere before we even knew it or named it. The world-without-us that we ignored now overruns the world of words and airport terminals. Countries, cities, and campuses melting like clouds, as the press conference announcements and group emails are overtaken before they are drafted. Everything—or at least most things maybe—will continue as usual right up until the next update when everything will close. But not yet. Not quite yet.

Every book and every film are now from Before. Decades of discourse, the accumulated words which shaped all our thoughts have kept everything still for so long. They are nothing against the crisis, nothing as substantial as dust or smoke, and we see ourselves just as we are and where we are. This will not last. We are going to need to come up with some new words to talk ourselves out of this. We need to start saying them right now—in this brief hiatus—or others are going to speak for us again. They are likely to say some very ugly things.

I’m talking about enough food, shelter, and medicine for everyone and not making them work sick or pay the landlord if they can’t. Everything for everyone. The world with us. The deer in the street and the people on the balconies. This is where we will build from.

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