Some ingredients for our radical cultural reset

Dear President Trump,

“Apathy makes you an accomplice to oppression”
“Never Forget”


“Never Forget”
“Apathy makes you an accomplice to oppression”

These messages are painted on utility boxes at the edge of the covered reservoir park I sometime walk around in the morning. I think the intent is to see them in the second order since the “Never Forget” message is closer to the sidewalk as you walk into the park, but I think either order works just fine. As an added bonus, the apathy-accomplice-oppression message is painted on very shiny and so when one stands in front of it to read it (or to take a picture of it), one sees a blurry reflection of one’s own image. It’s a super nice touch.

I have no idea whether the same person wrote both messages – the paint used is different (“Never Forget” is in black while “Apathy….” is in blue and yellow) and the handwriting is quite different. Plus, “Never Forget” looks like it’s been there longer; the lettering is a little worn. I know it doesn’t really matter whether they were written at the same time or by the same person, but I actually prefer the idea that they were neither written at the same time nor by the same person. This way they are more like an unfolding conversation rather than a solo, static declaration. I also like the idea of “Never Forget” having a life of its own that simultaneously informs the “Apathy” message and speaks more broadly to our collective situation, especially as we struggle to clear the noxious fog of minimization, distraction, and lies about how under control everything is.

I’ve got two ideas to share today that are in keeping with the warning against apathy and that could be parts of what a radical cultural reset might look like. First, I think it behooves us to consider the example Representative Katie Porter is setting with her persistent, insistent focus on transparency and logic. I’ve told you before about her brilliant lines of questioning that have exposed the callous disinterest for workers and consumers of many a corporate CEO (she basically gives master classes on how to do this every time she gets an opportunity to confront these people). She is one of those “do the math” sorts as she schools the American people and CEOs on both personal financial literacy and how corporate greed (driven by individual greed) works to obfuscate the actual math that puts so many people in financial holes.

I bring her up now in part because she has a solid WP editorial calling on Congress to force your administration to be forthcoming and transparent about how funds from the Defense Production Act are being used so that it’s less of a goody grab bag for your buds. I also think she offers a vision of a culture that values dealing with one another in ways that are clear and above-board – something that is absolutely crucial to a just, sustainable system designed to help all people thrive.

The other cool thing that is also getting a fair bit of attention and that could be part of a radical reset is the movement around the world, including in the US, of setting aside way more space for people to walk, bike, scooter, wheelchair, and stroller with enough space to make public health physical distancing safe (rather than someone having to detour into or dash across the street to get the requisite 6’ of space). If we could really make in investment in creating spaces for people to be outside and to move about without cars, that could be a radical game changer for health and sustainability long, long term. Plus, there’s the bonus that people can see each other and say “hi,” which is not exactly a happening thing when we are all locked up in our SOVs.

May we be safe to make life-affirming changes.
May we be willing to do our homework and then roll up our sleeves.
May we cultivate the grit we need for the long game.
May we never forget and may we not make peace with apathy, complicity, or oppression.

Tracy Simpson

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