I'm reading this very interesting dystopian novel, but I came across a sentence I don't understand. In this dialogue between mother and daughter, set after a global economic crisis that has disrupted everyone's lives, the daughter tells her mother:

“Dad said it would never happen,” Emma says as we leave the detritus of the twin malls behind us and head north toward the airport toll road. “Chávez probably said the same thing. It’s what we do, honey.” Really, it’s what we don’t do. We don’t think anything will ever change.

I really don't get the meaning of "It's what we do", therefore I don't understand what "what we don't do" means in the following sentence. Can someone please paraphrase for me the dialogue, to make it more clear?

1 Answer 1


"What we do" is an informal phrase meaning "the activity which is the purpose of our existence, or which we mostly do". Companies use it to describe their "mission". A worker at a garage might say 'fixing cars is what we do". People might use it to talk about something which they often or habitually do. In this case, in Emma's opinion, what "we (the family) (mostly) do" is deny the truth of unpleasant facts, such as the global economic crisis.

What we do (The Free Dictionary)

  • 2
    @Cicc And, to explain the immediate negation, the narrator points out that the thing that they "do" is in fact inaction. Commented Mar 18, 2022 at 16:00
  • Ok, now it's more clear
    – Cicc
    Commented Mar 18, 2022 at 16:12

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