words by willow defebaugh
Welcome to The Overview, a weekly newsletter in which Editor-in-Chief Willow Defebaugh offers an expansive look at the latest events in climate and culture—and how it all fits together.
“When Small men begin to cast big shadows, it means that the sun is about to set.” ―Lin Yutang
In last week’s newsletter I wrote about the moon, so it’s only fitting that this week’s should be about its companion, the sun. In cultures around the world, the solstice is a time of celebrating that great source of life, the center of our little sliver of the universe. If the moon represents the unconscious, the sun represents what is conscious—clear as day.
Among the many truths that have become clear so far this year, one that has become most apparent these last few weeks is that Trump’s Presidency is in a tailspin, as CNN’s Stephen Collinson wrote this week. He is at odds with the military over orders against protesters, continues to deny the gravitas of a pandemic that has claimed 120,000 American lives that science says is not “dying out,” a conservative Supreme Court has taken two stands against him in cases related to LGBTQI rights and immigration, he’s behind Democratic candidate Joe Biden in the national polls, and most importantly, he is on the wrong side of a mass awakening around the most prominent crises of our day, including systemic racism and the climate crisis.
As author Ijeoma Oluo pointed out in a series of tweets, Trump used white nationalism as his platform to win the White House, promising he could give white people their supremacy back. But what we have learned in the last few weeks is that Trump never had that power. As Oluo put it, “The brutality that we’ve seen in white supremacy has not been wielded by Trump. It’s been in our cities and towns…And we’ve taken these battles to the cities and towns…We’ve taken our protests to where white supremacy lives in our lives. And Trump is so angry. If he’s not the white supremacy we battle, how can he be the white supremacy that white people vote for?” Trump is not the sun; he is a small man casting a large shadow, and his days in office are numbered.
In the early 20th century, writers like Carl Jung and Émile Durkheim began to explore the concept of the collective consciousness. As Yancey Strickler put it in a recent essay, these figures presented it as a kind of “narrative without an author.” When religion dominated culture, that narrative was a dictate from higher powers. Then, for a time, it was dictated by the media—the “big three” news networks. But something changed when the Internet, and specifically social media, came to be. As Strickler writes, “In the networked age, our consciousness is co-authored by everyone…The great development, crisis, and opportunity of modern life is that our collective consciousness has been digitized.”
If you want proof of the mass awakenings happening right now, all you have to do is open your web browser or scroll on social media. Not only does the Internet serve as proof of our expanding awareness, it allows us all to become the authors of it. And what could be more indicative of the sun, which shines indiscriminately on all things? Perhaps this is the greatest awakening of all we are seeing this year: the understanding that we, each of us, are suns.
Last week, a video went viral of a crowd of protesters surrounding a police car holding a woman who had just been arrested. Outnumbered, the police had no choice but to let her go. Watching that video, as well as marching in a crowd of 15,000 people in Brooklyn last weekend shouting “Black trans lives matter,” one thing became abundantly clear to me: that the power really is with the people, and that it always has been. That a new day is dawning.