‘Kids are back in school but I hear that only 30-60 percent of pupils show up,’ I said after we settled into our spot on the veranda, right over the water by the harbour.
‘Does this feel like before the covid?’ I asked Camp, looking around at the generous spacing of the tables and the potted plants between them for separation and distancing.
‘Not really,’ Camp said. ‘It’s strange to be served by Vicky in a face mask like we’re in a hospital setting. Also, I miss smoking my pipe. It goes well with beer.’
‘And teachers got what they’ve been asking for years, thanks to the virus: vastly reduced class sizes and an additional boost in virtual learning capacity. Many kids had to learn from home and use virtual platforms. Not sure how successful that was but those tools won’t go away,’ Camp said.
‘They’ll be part of the learning arsenal,’ I said. ‘And it made kids read, even though it’s on a screen. It’s the future and it has arrived.’
‘Last week we talked about civilisation and I forgot to mention that our cultures wouldn’t exist without beer. I read an essay about how nomadic peoples in the Neolithic met annually for beer festivals. Because this required large quantities of beer, production had to be placed in the hands of specialists – probably shamans and priests at the time. They intensified cultivation and expanded the planting areas. In short, early forms of agriculture were created because of beer. In addition, calendars were needed to make the way to the festivities in time. And some revelers just stayed on, thus creating the first permanent settlements.’
‘Beer, the harbinger of permanence and stability? A bit of a stretch, no?’ I said.
‘It’s a good theory,’ Camp said, raising his glass.
‘What do you make of all these demonstrations and protests for equality and against racism in light of George Floyd’s murder by those nasty cops’ I asked Camp.
‘I’m afraid it won’t change much of anything. It’s like a pressure relief valve, some steam is let off and that’s about it. Black Americans will remain second class citizens as long as they are seen as inferior to whites. Descendants of former slaves and colonized peoples do not become equals with their masters and exploiters even after they are freed. They remain the poor, the underprivileged and the exploited. And its white old men who control the flow of money and you know the golden rule: Those who have the gold rule,’ Camp said, finishing his pint.
‘Sad but true,’ I agreed, ‘but are we condemned to repeat the past over and over like in the movie Groundhog Day?’
‘If you’re a black person then you have to concede that not much has changed since 1967 and James Baldwin’s and Malcolm X’s speeches could have been written today. As far as they are concerned, we now live in their future.’
‘Black lives matter, but do they matter as much as white lives?’ I said.
‘Maybe in the sports arena or the music hall and the military, but not so much in the corridors of power or the halls of justice and not on Wallstreet or Mainstreet.’
‘But a vast number of young white people are demonstrating and protesting against systemic racism. Maybe a change is coming. Maybe this new generation will be colorblind and fair,’ I said. ‘Let’s hope the result is not a drastic increase in Covid infections.’
‘There is only one chance of making a difference and that’s at the ballot box this coming November. If all those Generation Z protesters vote, then maybe there will be a sea-change,’ Camp said. ‘And an uptick in virus transmissions is guaranteed with these mass gatherings. We already know that.’
‘Ready for another one,’ Vicky said, from behind her mask, exchanging the empties for two full ones.
‘Always ready for another one,’ Camp said. ‘How is life behind that mask?’
‘Lonely,’ Vicky said, ‘it’s isolating and distancing. And what am I supposed to do with all my lip sticks and teeth whiteners?’