Arundati Roy is one of my favorite authors. And while, as the uncracked spines of the pile of books on my windowsill attest, my reading over the past while has been profoundly disappointing, I love what she has written about the pandemic.
To be sure, seeing the disruption and devastation the pandemic has caused as a potential “reset” may be a product of wanting (no, needing) to find some clarity in the abyss that has characterized these months. And I can’t be the only one who feels like an utter failure now, compared to when we embarked on this by setting out to read books! Learn Spanish! Connect with our kids (while working and cleaning and cooking)! And raise chickens! Bake bread! And exercise!
I have learned that in a pandemic, perceptions of time shift. Similar to when you have a newborn, the days are long but the months are short.
How things turn quickly and we see how fragile we all really are. And if you choose to ignore it, it hauls off and kicks you right in the pants. Now we are staring in the unblinking eyes of the truth: the privilege of those of us who have it. The marginalization of those who don’t. The horrors of misogynistic mass shootings. The fact of ongoing racist murders of black and indigenous people. The truth is right there now, laid bare (or perhaps exposed?) by the rawness and vulnerability the pandemic has created. How precious life is and how ugly the casualness is of lives that have been damaged and taken.
The old saying If you’re not part of the solution you are part of the problem has never been truer. And none of this is about me, but I know that I have much work to do personally and on behalf of my organization.
My focus now is on rebuilding my business in a way that is conscious of the racial, economic and gender biases that exist in the justice system and private law practice. For too long, I have operated in a happy little bubble that me and my colleagues have created separate from (and to a large degree, in spite of) the traditional law firm mindset. Mostly women, very progressive, lots of pro bono work, cooperation and collaboration. But I don’t think it’s enough. I think that from now on, organizations such as mine must act and react in a way that is more overtly aware of how we got here.
What is this going to look like? I am not sure. On management level, it will at least start with consciously ensuring decisions to engage suppliers and hire are inclusive and diverse. On a client level, we won’t tolerate racism (sounds crazy for an immigration law firm, right? Wrong! It happens all the time). To those clients wishing to move to Canada because “there are too many immigrants in my country”, don’t bother contacting us, we aren’t interested in your business.
Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.
Arundati Roy, An Ordinary Person’s Guide to Empire (2005)