The World After COVID-19
Instead of a new post about art therapy, I have decided to post parts of a wonderful article this month from a German futurist about the world after COVID-19.
In working with trauma victims in art therapy, we often experience a time of integration, recovery and hope. The client emerges wiser, more compassionate and even feels more powerful, able to stand up and face the future in an authentic way.
I would like to believe that good can come out of the dark days we face in the world. That we learn important lessons in the face of the challenges caused by this terrible virus. That we’re all interconnected and that we need to work together to resolve our planet’s issues, like protecting the environment. That we learn to give a helpful hand at any given time and become more authentic, vulnerable and strong, honouring our complexity. That we learn to be truly humane.
Consider the provoking yet hopeful words of futurist Matthias Horx…
Let’s imagine a situation in spring, let’s say in September 2021. We are sitting in a street cafe in a big city. It is warm and people are walking down the pavements again.
Do they move differently? Is everything the same as before? Does the beer, the wine, the coffee taste like it used to? Like it did before Corona?
Or even better?
Looking back, what will we be surprised about?
We will be surprised that our social distancing rarely led to a feeling of isolation. On the contrary, after an initial paralysing shock, many of us were relieved that the constant racing, talking, communicating on a multitude of channels suddenly came to a halt. Distancing does not necessarily mean loss, but can open up new possibilities. Some have already experienced this, for example trying interval fasting — and suddenly enjoyed food again. Paradoxically, the physical distance that the virus forced upon us also created new closeness. We met people who we would never have met otherwise. We contacted old friends more often, strengthened ties that had become loose. Families, neighbours, friends, have become closer and sometimes even solved hidden conflicts.
The social courtesy that we previously increasingly missed, increased.
We will be amazed at how quickly digital cultural techniques have suddenly proven themselves in practice. Teleconferencing and video conferencing, which most colleagues had always resisted (the business class flight was better), turned out to be quite practical and productive. Teachers learned a lot about internet teaching. The home office became a matter of course for many — including the improvisation and time juggling that goes with it.
At the same time, apparently outdated cultural techniques experienced a renaissance. Suddenly you got not only the answering machine when you called, but real people. The virus spawned a new culture of long phone calls without people juggling a second screen. The “messages“ themselves suddenly took on a new meaning. You really communicated again. Nobody was kept waiting anymore. Nobody was stalled. This created a new culture of accessibility, of commitment.
People who never came to rest due to the hectic rush, including YOUNG people, suddenly went for long walks (an activity formerly unknown to them). Reading books suddenly became a cult.
Reality shows suddenly seemed awkward and the whole trivia trash, the garbage for the soul that flowed through all channels seemed ridiculous. No, it didn’t completely disappear. But it was rapidly losing value.
We will be surprised that drugs were developed in the summer that increased the survival rate. This lowered the death rate and made Corona a virus that we have to deal with — much like the flu and many other diseases. Medical progress helped. But we also learned that it was not so much technology, but a crucial change in social behaviour. The decisive factor was that people could have solidarity and be constructive despite radical restrictions. Human-social intelligence has helped. The much-vaunted artificial intelligence, which promised to solve everything, has only had a limited effect on Corona.
This has shifted the relationship between technology and culture. Before the crisis, technology seemed to be the panacea, the bearer of all utopias. No one — or only a few hard-boiled people — still believe in the great digital redemption today. The big technology hype is over. We are again turning our attention to the humane questions: What is mankind? What do we mean to each other?
We are astonished to see how much humour and humanity actually emerged in the days of the virus.
We will be amazed at how far the economy could shrink without collapsing, something which was predicted during every pre-corona tax increase and every government intervention. Although there was a “black April,“ a deep economic downturn and a 50 percent drop in the stock market, although many companies went bankrupt, shrank or mutated into something completely different, it never came to zero. As if the economy was a breathing being that can also nap or sleep and even dream.
Today in the spring, there is a global economy again. But global just-in-time production, with huge branched value chains, in which millions of individual parts are carted across the planet, is now in trouble. It is currently being dismantled and reconfigured. Interim storage facilities, depots and reserves are growing again everywhere in production and service facilities. Local production is booming, networks are being localised, and crafts are experiencing a renaissance. The global system is drifting towards GLOCALisation: the localisation of the global.
We will be surprised that even the loss of assets due to the stock market crash does not hurt as much as it felt in the beginning. In the new world, wealth suddenly no longer plays the decisive role. Good neighbours and a blossoming vegetable garden are more important.
Could it be that the virus has changed our lives in a direction that we wanted to change anyway?
We all know the feeling of successfully overcoming fear. When we go to the dentist for treatment, we are worried a long time in advance. We lose control on the dentist’s chair and it hurts before it hurts. In anticipating this feeling, we bathe ourselves in fears that can completely overwhelm us. Once we have survived the treatment, there is a feeling of coping: the world looks young and fresh again, and we are suddenly full of drive.
Neuro-biologically, fear adrenaline is replaced by dopamine, a type of endogenous drug of the future. While adrenaline leads us to flee or fight (which is not really productive in the dentist’s chair, and just as useless in the fight against corona), dopamine opens our brain synapses: we are excited about what is to come, curious, foresighted. When we have a healthy dopamine level, we make plans, we have visions that lead us to the forward-looking action.
Surprisingly, many experience exactly this in the Corona crisis. A massive loss of control suddenly turns into a veritable intoxication of the positive. After a period of bewilderment and fear, an inner strength arises. The world “ends“, but with the experience that we are still there, a kind of new being arises from inside us.
In the middle of civilisation’s shutdown, we run along beaches or through parks, or across almost empty spaces. This is not an apocalypse, but a new beginning.
This is how it turns out: Change begins as a changed pattern of expectations, perceptions and world connections. Sometimes it is precisely the break with routines, the familiar, that releases our sense of the future again. The idea and certainty that everything could be completely different — and even better.
The new world after Corona — or better with Corona — arises from the disruption of the megatrend CONNECTIVITY. Politically and economically this phenomenon is also called “globalisation“. The interruption of connectivity — through border closings, separations, seclusions, quarantines — does not lead to the abolition of the connections. But it enables the reorganisation of the things that hold our world together and carry it into the future. There is a phase jump in socio-economic systems.
The world to come will appreciate distance again — and this will make connectedness more qualitative. Autonomy and dependency, opening and closing are rebalanced. This can make the world more complex, but also more stable. This transformation is largely a blind evolutionary process — because one fails, the new, the viable, prevails. This makes you dizzy at first, but then it shows its inner meaning: and what connects the paradoxes on a new level is sustainable.
This process of complexation — not to be confused with COMPLICATION — can also be consciously designed by people. Those who can, who speak the language of the coming complexity, will be the leaders of tomorrow. The hope-bearers.
Every deep crisis leaves a story, a narrative that points far into the future. One of the strongest images left by the corona virus are of the Italians making music on the balconies. The second image was sent to us by satellite images that suddenly showed the industrial areas of China and Italy free of smog. In 2020, human CO2 emissions will drop for the first time. That very fact will do something to us.
If the virus can do that, then can we possibly do it? Maybe the virus was just a messenger from the future. The drastic message is: Human civilisation has become too dense, too fast, and overheated. It is racing too fast in a direction in which there is no future.
But it can reinvent itself.
Music on the balconies!
This is how the future works.
Robert GrayDirector and Senior Lecturer at CECAT
Registered Art Therapist and Psychologist
MA A. Th., AThR; B. Soc. Sc. (Psych.) (Hons.), MAPS.; BA. Theol. (Hons), MA Theol.
A highly regarded art therapy lecturer from Germany, Robert Gray has become a much sought-after art therapy lecturer and practising art therapist in Australia. His unique approach spanning psychodynamic, humanistic, spiritual and cognitive behavioural frameworks has distinguished him as a thought leader who is frequently invited to present at conferences in Australia and abroad.
Trained overseas and multilingual, German-born Robert shares the benefits of his international affiliations and access to cutting-edge research published in various languages with his students and readers. Robert is a professional member of the Australian and New Zealand Arts Therapy Association (ANZATA) and the Australian Psychological Society (APS).