This is the first post-pandemic print edition of BBeyond Magazine.
Everyone is keen to put COVID-19 behind them and move on. Yet the virus that blighted the world has left an indelible mark: on society as a whole; on all of us as private individuals; and on every aspect of modern life.
There have been profound changes to the way we work, how we interact with one another, to our daily and seasonal routines – even to the way we think. Many of these changes will be irreversible. We all acknowledge those that are obvious or even necessary; to those that are more insidious, such as the erosion of our civil liberties, we respond either with rebellion or resigned apathy.
Since 9/11, there has been a struggle between the right to privacy and collective security; what the pandemic has revealed is that, given the right circumstances, the general public is all too willing to sacrifice the former for the latter. In doing so they decry those who would question the new status-quo, usually through the now-familiar trial-by-Twitter.
On the other side of the argument, the crisis has provided ample opportunities for disaster capitalists to extract vast profits at the expense of the commons. Some of this activity is clandestine, yet much of it is done under the guise of public health.
We are proud to have curated a selection of essays and op-eds by a number of contributors who, as citizens of the world, subscribe neither to conspiracy theories nor to the herd mentality. They certainly don’t shy away from speaking their mind, as Pearl Lam does in a deeply personal take on the situation in Hong Kong.
Apart from the millions who have died, perhaps the greatest damage has been to the fabric of liberal democracy. Shafik Gabr, in the series of essays, describes a familiar experience of a society turned absurd: where untruthful news and fake politicians make us question our own sense of reality, reducing our collective capacity to respond or rebound from crises.
What is one to make of it all? Perhaps the answer lies in the burgeoning movement to ‘build back better’. The silver-lining to the pandemic – if there is such a thing – is that it has dramatically and universally demonstrated that climate change is not just about forest fires and photogenic polar bears. COVID-19 is not the first phenomenon of a zoonotic epidemic, which can be traced from the emergence of HIV to, more recently, the Zika virus. Nor, we fear, is it the last.
A theme that connects the artworks in this issue – from the unique and experimental photography of Charles March to the dazzling paintings of Hannah Shergold – is to probe our certainties and conceptions of the natural world. What really is a tree, an elephant, an ocean? What are we?
To paraphrase our featured artists/designers, Emily and Sefton from Badgers of Bohemia, we are all capable and culpable of advocating for a more sustainable future in our own way. One could do worse than to take the example of Alexandre Allard, the developer of the São Paulo urban rejuvenation project Cidade Matarazzo.
For our part, we hope that the magazine continues to celebrate the individuals and ideas that would shake us from our complacency about the world. Thank you for staying with us, and we hope that you will follow us into the future.