Recently I found an article with the provocative title of “Prepare for the Ultimate Gaslighting” by Julio Vincent Gambuto (https://forge.medium.com/prepare-for-the-ultimate-gaslighting-6a8ce3f0a0e0). I realize English is a flexible language with many manufactured words and slang terms, but I’ve never heard of this before. What is gaslighting?
It’s actually a relatively old expression. Wikipedia defines it as “a form of psychological manipulation in which a person or a group covertly sows seeds of doubt in a targeted individual, making them question their own memory, perception, or judgment, often evoking in them cognitive dissonance and other changes such as low self-esteem,” and traces it back to a 1938 play aptly titled Gas Light (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaslighting).
So why should we prepare for the “ultimate” gaslighting? Basically, Mr. Gambuto is concerned there will be an irresistible campaign to quickly return to normal after the current pandemic has been vanquished. A lot of businesses have suffered, some will not be able to recover, and people will want to put this whole nasty affair behind us as quickly as possible. (And I think he has a valid point because it has already started, even as the coronavirus death toll continues to climb.)
Certainly we all are looking forward to resuming our usual routine. Personally, the culinary highlight of my week has always been dinner out on Saturday night, and take-out just isn’t the same, particularly when you don’t realize something you ordered is missing until you get home.
But this crisis has exposed some serious flaws in the systems that are supposed to take care of us. Before we can safely move on, we need to fix those flaws. We need to be better prepared for the next crisis, especially since we don’t know when that will be. We can’t afford to ignore the opportunity to learn from this pandemic.
In other words, we can’t afford to be gaslighted.