The Morning After

The world is different these days. People—smart people anyway—are practicing social distancing and sheltering in place, isolating themselves in their homes in order to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and keep from getting the disease themselves. Some of us whose work depends on gathering in groups are trying to figure out what to do with ourselves. Others of us who teach find ourselves working harder and longer hours than we have in years, trying to figure out how to teach things online that would have been deemed impossible just a month ago. Still others of us who work essentially alone find little change in our lives other than perhaps the way we communicate with others and don’t socialize.

What is on our minds varies from person to person. Many of us are concerned for our personal safety and sanity. Others are concerned with the enormity of the situation. Still others are concerned with the politics that are evident as the US tries to deal with the crisis. Some of us seem totally unconcerned about what is going on and are continuing to live life as though there were nothing wrong while our neighbors are trying to adjust to working from home. Some are viewing the situation as an opportunity to catch up on projects they have not had time for. Others of us are completely panicked and hopeless, wondering how we are going to eat and pay the rent.

Still, there are those who take a philosophical approach to the situation. The number of articles available on the internet about how this global pandemic provides us an opportunity is expanding as rapidly as the virus itself. The type of opportunities pundits think are available are as numerous as the articles and range from self-introspection to transforming the way we live. Some, like David Suzuki think the virus represents an opportunity to make changes in our behavior that will benefit the planet.

This post falls more into this last category. As I was prepping for my first full online lecture on film noir, I ran across the statement that the notion returning to prewar America after World War II turned out to be a myth. It occurred to me that this situation is much the same. Never since World War II, has the nation, the world, been so completely absorbed by a crisis.  We cannot and will not return to a post-COVID-19 that will be the same as the pre-COVID-19 world in which we used to live. What we are now in is not the new normal, but rather the new interim. And it seems impossible to predict what the post-COVID-19 world will be like, how this virus and the crisis that it has engendered will have changed the country and our perceptions of nearly every aspect of reality.

And that’s the point. If we are still breathing, we have already been thinking about how this crisis has impacted our art. Some of us in the arts are wondering if or when we will work again. However, this is going to be over one day, and what I am suggesting is that we ought to turn our attention to what the situation might be after the pandemic. It is almost guaranteed that the world will be different—not just for artists, but for everyone. It has happened before. It is equally almost certain that what we have done before will likely not fit the new normal, whatever that turns out to be. The questions become how our art is going to fit into that new world, and how we are going to have to adapt what we do in order to be relevant in that future.

As Maureen McGovern’s The Morning After assures us, “there’s got to be a morning after.” Unfortunately, since we have no idea what the new world will look like, all we can do is stay adaptable. The time, however, to be thinking and preparing for that morning after in that new world is now.

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Date: Sunday, 29. March 2020 22:41
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