Lately it seems just about everything is taking place at the 11th hour. I'm hastily flowing from one manner of deadline to another, panting across each finish line just before they close the race. And it's not just me. Everyone I interact with seems to be just keeping up. Friends, family, clients, and strangers are making last-minute decisions, sending last-minute communications, completing house chores, work projects, and getting out of bed at the last possible moment.
The most present for me this week is Friday's looming individual tax deadline. This is the last minute of the last hour for taxes. The final approach to the extended deadline. More than the usual number of my clients have provided documents much later than they ever have before. Everyone who will get filed before the deadline will be wrapped up and transmitted just under the wire. A few people are planning to file after the deadline. Very unusual.
And although it's out of the ordinary, it makes perfect sense. Everything about the future feels so uncertain right now, there almost isn't any other way to function. The downward trajectory of Covid cases is hopeful, but it won't stop affecting all public engagement any time soon. There has been a positive shift in global political rhetoric about the urgency of addressing climate change, but sweeping public policy has yet to be enacted.
The last minute can be a fine time to take action in many cases. It's technically still on time. And if that's how everyone is coping right now, fine. But it does speak to something larger and possibly longer lasting. A great and impending General Delay. Like everyone else, I've heard much on the news recently about the global supply chain disruption. All around the world there are manufacturers waiting for raw materials, finished goods sitting on docks waiting for transport, and retailers selling out of things that have not historically been difficult to keep in stock.
Arguably, since the pace of western society is breakneck, a bit of a slow-down might do a lot of people good. However: we're not set up for it, it isn't applying universally to all things everywhere, and we're definitely not doing it on purpose. All signs point to an issue that needs resolving by deliberate effort, rather than a temporary trend that will work itself out.
Maybe the global shipping industries will rally together to restructure with climate change foremost on their agenda. Maybe the global supply chain will completely disintegrate before any action is taken. Maybe some mix of temporary fixes and long-term realignment. Regardless, it's such a complex and many-layered problem, that it's not likely to get resolved until it absolutely must be. In other words, at the very last moment.
The end of the line can also be quite inspiring and revelatory. When I was a Union Steward throughout my career as a federal employee, non-members would sometimes join the union when faced with the prospect of disciplinary or adverse employment action. We insensitively called these folks deathbed converts. It took right up until the last minute when they might lose their job before they suddenly recognized the value of union representation.
In some situations it's unclear that action is truly needed until the very last minute. Take the example of Leonard Matlovich, who heard and read about fellow members of the US armed services being discharged because they were gay. In 1975 he outed himself to his senior officer to challenge the government's position and take a stand for gay rights. At the same time and on the other side of the country, actor John Amos could see the all white writing team for the TV show "Good Times" had no idea what an actual Black family would be like. In 1976 he vehemently opposed the racist portrayal of a slice of American reality he actually understood as a real live Black man and he was fired from the show.
In the 2008 remake of the 1951 classic movie "The Day The Earth Stood Still," Keanu Reeves plays an alien who comes to Earth to deliver an ultimatum to the world: get your act together or be exterminated. There is no arguing, no negotiating, no effective way to resist. It's the end of the line for the people of planet Earth. The only thing that saves humanity is a couple of folks showing the alien our remarkable ability to resolve issues at the eleventh hour. The alien halts the apocalypse because "at the precipice, we change."
Hollywood is full of stories of the human race coming together to overcome disaster, often against all odds. I have seen this phenomenon take shape in real life, so I know it is possible. I have also seen people get to the edge and completely fall apart, resulting in utter calamity, so I know that is equally possible. It feels like we have arrived at the last minute for a few things, global climate collapse chief among them. Climate change feels a lot like a precipice. I know we are capable of amazing change. I just want us to actually do it.
Information and Inspiration
Jaydra is a human in-process, working to make the world a better place. Sharing thoughts, feelings, and observations about the human experience.