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  • Monica Harris

Our Ctrl-Alt-Delete Moment Is Coming

Updated: May 16

The System needs a reboot. But will we be ready to restart it in a way that works for all of us?


“We have it in our power to begin the world over again.” — Thomas Paine

Reality has finally caught up with us in a big way. We’re coming face-to-face with the ugly truth.


We’re seeing that the infrastructure of the world’s “richest” nation is dangerously fragile and unprepared to handle the sudden or unknown. That the health of many Americans hangs by the slimmest of threads, and the finances of even more hang by slimmer threads. That Black and brown people suffer disproportionately during crisis, and that millions of children can’t eat unless they go to school.


Of course, these are ugly truths we’ve known — or at least suspected — for years. But now we can no longer ignore them.


We can try to soften the blow by politicizing our new reality, blaming parts of the ugliness on the “other” party. Convincing ourselves that if our party were in charge, this pandemic wouldn’t have claimed as many lives, that testing would have happened faster, that lockdowns would have been rolled out sooner.


We can tell ourselves these stories, but deep down we know they’re not true. Because if we’re honest with ourselves, we’ll admit that even if one president or party might be responsible for some of the horror we’re seeing, they’re not responsible for all of it. Anyone who’s not trapped in partisan denial can see why all of this is really happening.


The System that runs the most powerful country in the world is completely F.U.B.A.R. And it took a microscopic organism to show us.



We live in surreal times.


Right now, we’re all having a life-altering experience that feels almost like a collective brush with death. The kind of experience that usually happens to one person or maybe a group of people — but never to everyone at the same time.


That’s what’s happening now.


Like a cosmic wake-up call, we’re all being forced to pay attention to how we’ve been moving through the world. Defending ourselves from contagion has forced us to take a pause and reflect on our priorities. To get to know ourselves better. To learn who we really are.


So what are we learning about ourselves?


  • That we can all pull together when the stakes are high enough

  • That our relationships with others are our most valuable assets, and in many ways we’ve taken them for granted

  • That we’ve been buying too much “stuff,” and when we focus on the stuff we need, we realize we don’t need a whole lot

  • That we’ve been way too busy getting to jobs, meetings, and play dates, and slowing down actually feels…kinda good

  • That the planet needed a break, too, and it can heal if we just turn off our damn machines

  • That we’re completely dependent on the money we spend our lives chasing — and trying to survive without jobs for even a week is nearly impossible for most of us


The System that runs the most powerful country in the world is completely F.U.B.A.R. And it took a microscopic organism to show us.


But that’s not all we’re learning. We’re also being forced to look at a pathetically broken System and acknowledge what it’s done to us. Because it’s in our face now.


We’re being forced to take a hard look at an economy that threatens to destroy most of us the moment that money stops flowing. To reflect on lives that leave us scurrying like headless chickens. Busy as hell, but falling behind. Making money, but losing ourselves and our families. Growing GDP, but destroying our planet. Paying taxes, but seeing our infrastructure and vital services crumble. Voting in elections, but watching our problems get worse.


This is the System we’re trapped in. This is the status quo we’re supporting.


Sure, we can come up with all sorts of reasons to keep this setup in place. It’s familiar, so it “feels” comfortable. It provides “stability.” It creates the jobs that keep us alive. It guarantees that Amazon delivers packages and grocery store shelves stay stocked.


But is it a System that takes more from us than we get in return?


I ask because if we’re honest with ourselves, we’ll admit that life-before-lockdown was really only working well for a few people — and if you’re reading this, you’re probably not one of them. Life for most of us has been an unsustainable, unrelenting grind. We’ve been living like rats trapped in a glass room that’s slowly filling with gas. Every year more of us fall dead on the floor, but we pretend not to notice. We just scurry past the bodies, hoping we can stay alive a little longer. Long enough to find a way out of a room that has no door.


And while we’re at it, let’s be honest about something else.


We all know there’s something worse than Coronavirus coming; it’s just a matter of time. There are nastier microbes out there, waiting to come to life. As climate change worsens, there will be more epic fires, floods, and storms. As debt swallows us in larger gulps, our economy will become more fragile and unstable. If we were nearly crippled by a virus that other countries were able to contain faster and with way less collateral damage, you know what that means, don’t you?


It means this pathetic, unsustainable System is going to crash at some point. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow. But it’s coming.


We can sense when our computers are about to crash. We know when something is going wrong on a deeper level that we can’t fix by simply closing a program. Or waiting patiently. When this happens, we know there is only one solution to get the system running well again: we have to reboot our computer.


I think this is what’s happening now, but on a MUCH bigger scale.


Our System has been giving us signs that it’s going to crash at some point. It’s been running slower for decades, glitching and freezing. We’ve suspected there was some corruption buried in places we can’t see, but we’ve ignored the problem — because our System still runs. Just enough for us to keep looking the other way. But now we’re getting a sense of how bad the problem is. Now we’re seeing that whatever's gone wrong can’t be fixed by just voting for people who say the right things and jawbone about policies that only look good on paper.


A ctrl-alt-delete moment is coming, my friends. And we need to start thinking about how we want to reboot our System when that moment arrives.


But there's no need to panic, okay? We don't have to junk our computer and buy a new one. Despite its flaws, the guts of our machine are still good and have a lot more life in them. But it may be time to consider a serious System upgrade. We may even need to buy entirely new software.


And maybe that’s not such a bad thing or something we should be afraid of.



We’ve suspected there was some corruption buried in places we can’t see. But we’ve ignored the problem because our System still “runs.”



When the rest of the country finally re-opens for business, many of us will be thrilled to resume our spot on the hamster wheel and do our part to fuel the System. We’ll be thankful to have jobs, even if those jobs only grind us to pulps again. We’ll be grateful to banks that swamp us with mind-numbing debt so we can “survive” this crisis and limp on to the next. Because as pathetic as this System is, we need to keep it running so we can all survive.


But how much longer are we going to keep doing this? When will we demand more from the people who lead us?


We’ve just had our wake up call.


Our System almost crashed, so we need to start asking ourselves these questions now. We need to be mentally prepared to take the next steps when the inevitable happens. Because if we don’t demand a voice in how the System is reset, you can be sure that those in power will reboot it with the same outdated P.O.S. software we’re using now. The software that works best for them and grinds most of us to a pulp.


And then we’ll be back to square one. Back to our “normal” and completely dysfunctional lives.


Now, are you ready for some good news? I believe we have it in our power to reboot the System in a way that works for us. But it will mean refusing to remain comfortably numbed by what’s familiar and “normal.”


It will require setting aside our differences and working together — not to fight a virus that may kill some of us, but to resist a way of life that’s killing allof us. It will mean understanding that we aren’t each other’s enemies; we’re allies in a common struggle.


We’ll need the courage to stop settling for “safe” candidates who defend the status quo and start supporting candidates who want to restart our System with newer, better software that can fundamentally change our lives. And if a candidate refuses to upgrade the software? Then they shouldn’t get our vote. It’s that simple. Because we deserve a better System. Because there are a lot more of us, so we have the power. Because it’s our damn computer.


Our once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to begin the world over again will be within our reach soon, and we need to be ready to seize it. It’s up to you. It’s up to all of us.


What will we do?