NO TO A RETURN TO NORMAL – Sissy Doutsiou
(Translated by Rodanthe Scourtelli)
Sissy Doutsiou, continuing the “No to a Return to Normal” movement that started with 200 artists and scientists in Europe and America, invites us to think of a new way of living; here and now. The movement began in France on the occasion of a letter from Juliette Binoche and French physicist and philosopher Aurélien Barrau to the newspaper, Le Monde, in which they clarified that if we want to avoid ecological and social catastrophe we must not return to “normality”. They invited society to reconsider systemic values and look beyond consumerism before rushing back to “normal” life. The letter was signed, among others, by Robert De Niro, Cate Blanchett, Joaquin Phoenix, Alfonso Cuarón, Barbra Streisand, Madonna, Rooney Mara, Marion Cotillard, Adam Driver, Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Paolo Sorrentino, Mikhail Barishmodov, , Guillaume Canet, Penelope Cruz, Hirokazu Kore-eda, Nathalie Baye, Monica Bellucci, and Willem Dafoe.
Strolling through the empty streets of the city, I am constantly thinking of a new world. I feel the need to draft our new social project. Now, at a time when capitalist values are being challenged and the industrialization of life is considered a source of misery for all living beings, there is an urgent need for our manifesto. A plan to change “the present world”! It is a matter of life and death to free ourselves from the fetters of this system of destruction.
The only way to reach the end of the 21st century and be happy is to imagine a future society in harmony with nature.
What really matters in our lives? What is truly of great significance?
As part of the living world, we are under threat – just as hundreds of other organisms of the planet are under threat. As life forms disappear from planet Earth, humans will be coming up against crises: health, economic, existential. When the earth is threatened, our existence is threatened too. As we destroy the earth, we devour our own bodies.
Capitalism is unable to provide a decent way of living. The irrationality of never-ending competition, exploitation, consumerism, increasing productivity and the ever-increasing profit are constantly replicated.
As the days go by and our future becomes uncertain, it is necessary to review our values. Let’s think what the ethics of the neoliberal economy really are?
What is truly of worth today? Human happiness? Life or profit? Consuming useless products? Anxiety about daily survival? We have denied our own lives for so many years. We can no longer bear to see the exploitation of man by man, the violation of rights and social inequality taken for granted.
In the ashes of capitalism our dreams will be reborn. The world as-it-is-today is not the only solution. Debt, war, poverty and ecological catastrophe are not the only solution. The choices that very few are making together with our blind trust in the existing system determine the future of humanity. I ponder going back to normality is the real problem. In a normality where basic human needs are very expensive. In a normality where anxiety is overwhelming and takes over our lives. In a normality where, war-refugees are put to death in the bottom of the sea or States treat them as parasites. In a normality where the unemployed, the poor, the homeless are considered a “normal and integral part of the economy”. Love screams in front of the graves of those who had taken their own lives, all those who committed suicide due to the economic crisis. This normality puts the value of life at stake. There is no space; there is no time to allow for compassion to be our only obligation. It is our duty to invent this time, to build the spaces of compassion.
It is normal, it makes sense and it is easy: each of one of us should have a home with a garden, self-managed meetings in our neighborhood, open lessons for anything that takes our interest, vegetarian cooking workshops – so no animals are killed – organic gardening workshops and learn how to cultivate the land collectively, to put an end to the production of all kinds of plastic packaging and get rid of disposable packaging, to invent ways to cure our world and not destroy it. There is a solution for everything, as long as we dare think, that this world, that we find ourselves to live in now, is not the only version of reality. As long as we find the courage to plan a new path where we will have the right to take care of each other, where lifestyles will heal and not kill nature, where collective joy will be the primary value of life and not money.
It is normal to fight against a return to normality. Who defined the normality we live in and by what criteria? Let’s prepare ourselves as best we can, because we there is a world to gain and a world to deny; deny this vengeful world. This system of abuse can only offer oppression, exploitation, alienation, fear, stress. Today’s ruling class generates never-ending conditions of austerity and inequality. The pace of our day-to-day routine – together with its management – has become violent and impossible to bear. A relentless stress devours our desires. An uncertain future contaminates our mental balance and converts us into entities with hazed minds, trying, day by day, to get by or to get to reach somewhere far away with applying immense effort.
We have finally succeeded, in the quarantine‘s social exclusion, to reject, to a great extent, this normality and to express our empathy with vigor, to take care of each other, to care for our relatives, friends and fellow human beings, to discuss, to write, to figure out solutions. The dominant order of things haunts us for years. Now, in this state of emergency, it’s time to dump it and move on to something new. Let’s reject this ruthless world and hope for a society of economic equality and social well-being. To be able to be happy and healthy we all need to create a very different way of living.
The problem with the present day’s “normal” is that it gets worse day by day, it gets more and more destructive, it constantly replicates new crises, it becomes more and more threatening, it puts to death more and more. Anything that prevents us from sharing everything for free is an enemy to life.
I wish we were all on the verge of a major “no” to a return to “normality”; then the world would really change. I hope we are all closer to realising that the world needs to change. Care and compassion must be the mainstay of our decisions; love – not profit – must be the mainstay of our actions.
Sissy Doutsiou is a Greek Actress and Poet. She is a member of the collective Void Network and a protagonist to the theater play Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka, a production of the Institute for Experimental Arts.