World changing moments come along once or twice in a lifetime. As the effects of the corona virus now go global it marks the second such moment I’ve experienced in my thirty-nine years. Like 9/11, the Cuba Missile Crisis, and World War Two, the pages of history will be forever scribed with a before and after corona marker.
Unlike previous events though, unless you’ve visited a supermarket or hospital in the last two weeks you’d be forgiven for wondering what exactly has changed. Walking to work, sitting in the office, heading out for jogs, everything seems the same as it was a month ago when most of us still thought corona was something you put a wedge of lime in. Without looking at the news or social media I probably wouldn’t even be aware there was a problem.
The effects are there though, some tragically real (the 9,000 approx worldwide deaths so far), some completely unwarranted (the unnecessary panic buying). As the World Health Organisation recommend home isolation to slow the spread of the virus, the parts of everyday life that we’re all use to being there have come to a halt. Sporting events, concerts, international travel, all no longer on tap. Hollywood and cinema have not been immune either. Various movie productions came to an indefinite pause this week as actors and film crews started to isolate at home.
Cinema chains took an even bigger hit, having to close their doors due to a lack of attendance and a lack of staff. Struggling with low numbers anyway in the last few years, it’s a blow cinemas in the UK can well do without. In the face of an unprecedented issue like a global pandemic with no current cure, there’s little anyone can do to help the likes of Odeon and Cineworld at present.
So what’s to be done? Corona is only a significant threat to those very elderly and vulnerable people in the community. That’s not to take the threat lightly; these people need help isolating in a way where they are not cut-off and without support, whether that’s a daily phone call or help with their shopping. For the rest of us, we just need to be cautious; extra vigilance and hand washing are the key recommendations. That doesn’t feel like what we’re doing though. Social media is awash with panicky statements and woe-is-me how will we ever cope status updates.
Its perhaps telling that we’re now a generation or two removed from the folk who had to deal with crisis and inconvenience on a semi-regular basis. Just about everyone younger than me has no memory of the imminent threat of nuclear annihilation that was the Cold War, the power cuts and piling rubbish of the three-day-week in the seventies, the rationing of post war Britain, the nineteen percent interest rates and sky-high unemployment of the eighties.
Have we had it too easy for too long? In 2020 just about everything is instantly available whenever we want it, music off the internet, movies off of streaming services, sport you can watch on the phone in your pocket, information at the touch of a button from the internet. Our shop shelves are always fully stocked and our supermarkets are open twenty-four hours a day. Our schools are always there, our transport always runs, and our Councils are always on the end of the phone to moan at if things aren’t exactly as we want them to be.
Take this stuff away though and people who know no different, or who have grown complacent, start to panic. These things weren’t always so readily available though, and people got along just fine. It feels like the world has said “stop”, ordering us to slow down, to not be so demanding and self-centred. There should be an upside to this. People should be reconnecting with a slower pace of life, staying at home to read an old favourite book, having chats over the dinner table with family, digging out a board game, catching up on a film they haven’t seen in a while. We should take this extraordinary pause to evaluate and reconnect with some lost things, while the hardworking medical staff in the country work to keep the vulnerable safe and well.
Maybe a bit of the old Blitz spirit is still buried in the consciousness of the current generation. Maybe they just need to find it again. Of course, the Blitz era itself wasn’t the flag waving celebration of British stiff upper lip everyone says it was. There was looting during the war and black market sales of goods by people looking to make a quick buck. But for the sake of morale these aspects were down played, and out of the War came a spirit of Britishness that the country could be proud of. A stoicism, a sense of fair play, strong common sense, and a spirit of helping others. If we can find these again, the ship can be righted before the waters get too choppy.
The world got through all the previous markers in history, the Great War, the Spanish flu, the advent of global terrorism, and I’ve no doubt we’ll get through this one to. What will the movie world look like when we come out of the other side? No doubt there will be films to come that tell the corona tale, the love story of an elderly couple quarantined on a cruise ship, the drama of the behind the scenes political machinations as the world leaders try to steer us through things, the uplifting tale of a behind closed doors soccer match or Italians sharing music on the balconies of the quarantined apartments. The rest depends on what will likely be the other biggest impact of corona. As well as the tragic loss of loved ones there could well be a sizeable dent in the global economy. How this impacts on movie studios and cinema chains in the months to come remains to be seen.
In the meantime, stay safe, check on loved ones, keep washing those hands, don’t panic buy, and blow the dust of your movie collections.