Religion is no "opiate of the masses." Rich and poor, educated and ignorant alike flock to the call of certainty in these uncertain times. Rather than action based on the fear of an angry deity’s surveillance and judgement, this is an escape from the unease within. Certainty is a kind of social power. It indicates authority. Certainty reinforces identity through the use of prescribed language. Certainty is a foundational part of action. Today’s pandemic religion is about something you can be sure of. It’s about a bid for authority seen as stolen by science, by government, by secularism, and by technology. In the same way that 'thoughts and prayers' are more of a dismissive platitude than an actual step towards healing, it’s “Amen” at a distance without much in the way of getting directly in the trenches to rescue the drowning.
While last year I was busy being quite the adventurous backpacker, this year my biggest achievement has been to walk beyond the well-worn path between my bedroom and kitchen. It might have been the intensity of the lockdown slowly rotting away my brain, but I couldn’t help but start to draw some parallels between my time locked up in my bedroom in Melbourne, and my practice of Vipassana in Thailand.
The synagogue – a deeply symbolic cultural space – is a place where feminist congregants are increasingly seeking equality. These women wish to read from the Torah (a sacred text within Judaism) during services, typically something only men are allowed to do. Orthodox feminists argue that there exist halakhic (relating to Jewish law) grounds which justify women engaging in this ritual; there is simply a lack of rabbinical willingness to interpret the law in this way.
The new appreciation of previously dismissed types of work may be short lived, and their ongoing fight for a living wage is certainly not won. However, this crisis has opened a space in which broader conversations about the value of the work of someone like Rose may become unavoidable. If the lessons of these hotels are to be translated to national politics, it is that we cannot afford to return to the pre-COVID economy that tolerated people like Rose not receiving a living wage and rough sleepers lining Auckland Queen Street while warm rooms and homes sit empty.