Re_start - will 2021 be like 1921 or 1963?
The typically short lived memory of the past has been giving a lot of solace to many in 2020 – as it has over the past decade. Yes, when nothing new comes around, we can't but indulge in some sort of laconic nostalgia. Think about the very many Roaring 20s theme parties we've attended, or heard occurring, in the last ten years – I bet one too many. Culturally speaking (exception made for technology) I dare to say that we haven't advanced much since the end of the 20th Century. It almost feels like the numbness that came out of 9/11 put cultural expressiveness on hold, or at least in slow-motion.
And then it comes Covid-19 – great! My sister is a painter, and it has been excruciating for me to see how much in dire straits her work has been put by the pandemic – vernissage or live show? No, sorry, I'd like to avoid intensive care if I can! It comes with no surprise that artists worldwide have suffered this year, but maybe I dare to say for good. Wait! Don't give me the middle finger just yet. I say this because (hopefully) history will repeat itself – why? Well, we are humans, and in ten thousand-odd years, since we started conquering this blue planet, we haven't fundamentally changed very much.
After WWI and the Spanish Flu, which so many compared to Covid, the legendary Roaring 20s came about. That was a period of significant artistic and cultural evolution, let alone economic progress. Sadly, it ended with WWII and the Great Depression, but this time will be different… or maybe not. However, the real question is how the next 10 years will look like if benchmarked to the past century?
Let's look at the facts. The Roaring 20s were a period of resurgence and ante-litteram punk. The stark lines of art deco gave a boot in the rear to the flowery Victorian era, Jazz came about, and literature's language also changed and evolved. People were restarting, rediscovering, reliving. Bombs and blood traded shift with parties and champagne, the world - although not for too long - looked a merrier place. But in the 20s fierce identity politics wasn't the main concern (if you don't consider what the Nazis or the Soviets did), Climate Change would have sounded like an Aztec apocalyptic prophecy (now it's a fact), and the only way people had to voice their stupidity was maybe shouting nonsense verbiage by a street corner holding a scripted piece of cardboard – now we have social media.
However, since the 1920s we have achieved a few things as a globalised society, and even if in 2021 we are coming out from a year of death and physical, artistic, and social annihilation we may well not just numb ourselves out with parties and finally learn a thing or two. So, maybe, we will dodge the bullet of the past, or perhaps we've just anticipated our mistakes as we lived our Great Depression before our roaring years thanks to the 2008's GFC. Although I realise that people have already thrown their arms around extremist politicians. But hey, the likes of Trump, Putin, Bolsanero and Salvini are no Mussolini (I am cracking up thinking how many people may cringe reading this). So, if the Roaring 20s ultimately don't overlap well enough with today, and if we must draw parallelisms with the past at all costs, I would gamble that the rest of the decade will look a lot more like the 1960s than the 1920s.
Let me name a few similarities: a spree of environmental causes, social activism and inclusiveness, trips to space and the moon, hippies (or burners), lots of drugs, lots of sex, meditation (thank God), yoga, research for spiritual awakenings and a technology revolution - sadly music today generally sucks but maybe it'll change. I look at the US, and I can't but think about Joe Biden as a possible new Lyndon B. Johnson, who came to be President after the shocking murder of JFK in 1963. LBJ was a Washington veteran that executed the main political changes and ideas that JFK proposed. Unlike JFK, who was not a DC man with many long-dated political friendships, LBJ knew how to pull the right strings from his long political career, and it is thanks to LBJ that the Civil Rights Act ultimately passed. I cannot but think about the parallels between Obama-Biden and LBJ-JFK, for Trump was a historical outlier, a crash in the system bugged by Cambridge Analytica and social media. However, I believe that even after the appalling invasion of Capitol Hill last week, Trump was a healthy wake up call for a Democratic America that has become too radical and too jaded by identity politics – same as in many other countries around the world.
Should the 60s come back in a contemporary fashion, I'd be in 7th heaven. Meaning that if a now globalised world sought wholesomeness, an artistic renaissance, campaigning for positive causes and spiritual elevation, like in the 60s, but with sixty more years of experience, better healthcare and better technology, what a wonderful world this would be.
But is that simple? No, it's not, for history doesn't actually repeat but it does rhyme beautifully, and as the immortal poet from Stratford said: "neither rhyme nor reason can express how much".