Cultural Heartbreak

‘I woke up this morning and I see a world transformed by Covid-19. If anything could stop a way of life and break the cultural heart of the world then this virus has done a pretty good job. Nothing in my life time has had a similar impact. ‘I doubt that anybody remembers a time when we cannot touch, hug or be close to others,’ I said to Camp, who was lighting his pipe.

‘Six months ago, three kisses on the cheek in Switzerland, hugs in Canada, tribal handshakes and shoulder bumps downtown USA, huddles and handholding circles in parks and on beaches are all a thing of the past, gone but not forgotten but will they ever come back, will life ever be the same again?’

‘Probably not,’ Camp said, puffing on his pipe and pulling the tab on his can of beer. ‘Life as we knew it, is for now suspended and maybe gone forever. It’s a sad fact but this virus has driven us apart, separated us physically and I don’t put much lasting value into virtual, two- dimensional togetherness. Nothing replaces human, physical contact and there is no substitute for in-person meetings, eye contact and physical interaction.’

‘You know Camp, everybody, including myself, is concerned about all the Ma and Pa shops, restaurants, beauty parlours, hair stylists and a myriad of other small businesses that have a hard time surviving the Covid-19. But what about the thousands of dancers, actors, and performance artists? I’m not talking about only the professionals. Yes, they surely lose and suffer, but I’m talking about the millions of kids who don’t get to play soccer or hockey matches, no coaching and training, cannot go to their dance studios or gyms.’

‘Then there are the thousands of theatres, concert halls from the Met to the local auditorium, from the Opera Houses to the dance schools in every city and town, from the stadiums and arenas to the rec-centers and soccer pitches all over this world. No more games, no weekly matches and performances, no summer festivals, no music concerts, no sports competition, no tournaments, no performances. It’s a whole way of life that affects millions of people, from toddlers to adults. And the local soccer pitch never looked as good.’

‘Exactly and as you point out: live events cannot be replaced with virtual performances and zoom or skype meets. There is nothing that replaces the excitement of a soccer or tennis match, a dance recital or a theatre presentation, a live concert, a La Liga game, an opera at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre or the Place des Arts, Bard on the Beach or the fireworks.’

‘No convocations and proms? And the Olympics? Maybe next year,’ I said.

‘And all the support staff, the swag and food vendors and suppliers, the ushers, the ticket sellers, the security guards, the TV crews and advertising reps, all sitting at home, filling out forms to get some compensation from the governments,’ Camp said, ‘You cannot sustain performances and sports events without an audience. No spectators, no circuses.’

‘Cancelled and postponed are all the craft and food markets, solstice celebrations and park picnics, beach volley ball tournaments and group yoga classes,’ I said, ‘and ten thousand film industry workers here in Hollywood North, furloughed and sitting at home watching Netflix and daily covid updates, wondering where it’s all going. The ones who have kids finally get to spend the longest spring break in history with their kids who love it.’

‘We’re living in the twilight zone,’ Camp said, ‘I’m just glad that the breweries are still producing and the food supply seems to be holding up. We’re well fed but lonely, safe but isolated, calm but really just about going out of our minds.’

‘And the carnival has started. Anti-lockdown protests fuelled by extremists, anti-vaccine activists, ignorance and general mistrust in our governments, the shifting science, the ambiguous statistics coupled with economic misery, are motivating people to hit the streets and join in illegal demonstrations,’ I said.

‘It’s the lack of cognitive sophistication – the ability to think rationally about an issue – which is prevalent in many of these protesters. That and lockdown fatigue.’

‘We’re all in this together,’ our fearless leaders keep saying, but how is that noble sentiment helping when we’re all feeling cheated out of money, time and life itself?’

‘That’s when you reach out to your friends and family, have a drink, a chat, a laugh with somebody, even two dimensional, because without that, we’re fucked, no matter how rich or poor we are. We’ll turn into zombies and come back as neurotic eccentrics.’

‘That won’t be much of an adjustment for us,’ I said.

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