[NetBehaviour] How is everyone?

Paul Hertz ignotus at gmail.com
Tue Apr 14 20:02:54 CEST 2020

Hello everyone,

My wife and I have now spent over a month in social isolation in our house
in Chicago. We're fortunate to have a building with an apartment upstairs
and a storefront studio and small apartment downstairs. I work on new work
or print old work and archive it in the back apartment. We have a forest
preserve and tree-lined streets to walk in, and the grocery store offers
curbside pickup. My wife retired from nursing a few years ago, and I have
retired from teaching. In some ways we are quite cozy and secure, though we
miss seeing our granddaughters, who used to spend after school afternoons
with us. Now I read to them over video chat.

Chicago is a hotspot for Covid-19 and yet we have been somewhat more
fortunate than other cities in the U.S., perhaps because the governor of
Illinois and the mayor of Chicago took prompt action. The mayor has become
a meme—images of her looking stern show up on Instagram
<https://www.instagram.com/explore/tags/whereslightfoot/>, superimposed on
public parks, restaurants, and porches. Inveterate news junkies, we are
daily aware of how desperate the situation is for some people. I am happy
to report that the city is making emergency funds available to undocumented
immigrants and the homeless, far more than the federal government has been
willing to do. The plight of prisoners in the county jail and stat prisons
however is very concerning, in this nation where incarceration is nearly as
popular as guns.

I have been slow to engage with all the flurry of online art, though I did
attend parts of the Ann Arbor Film Festival, some of the Quarantine Concerts
<https://ess.org/the-quarantine-concerts> of the local experimental music
venues, and the Goodman Theater's production of School Girls; or, the
African Mean Girls Play <https://www.goodmantheatre.org/streamschoolgirls>.
Domenico Dom Barra kindly asked my participation for his White Page Gallery
<http://www.dombarra.art/whitepagegallery>, a project he has been nurturing
for some time.

I said some time ago to a friend online that I was more concerned with the
slow accumulation of sorrow than with the immediate pangs of social
distancing. Anticipated grief erupts sometimes in unguarded moments when
emotion overwhelms me and just as quickly subsides, swift and ingenuous as
a child. I wonder if Boccaccio's young men and women celebrated their
freedom at the same time they held grief at bay. Did they confront a mix of
privilege and guilt, or were they just grateful for a respited from the
dire motion of the world around them, however brief? In the meantime, they
told stories. And so we do. And just as surely, the world is going to
return to us and we to it.

Here in the U.S, we also confront a government led by an incompetent, who
boasted once that he could commit murder and the crowd would still love
him. People are dying because of his ignorance and narcissism. It remains
to be seen whether he and the party that supports him will be held to
account. This much is clear: a system of government that does not seek the
trust of all of its citizens, but plays at power games and propaganda to
divide them, is ill-prepared for crises on the order that humanity now
faces. The hierarchy of slow-moving disasters we locate under the rubric of
"climate change" are going to be much more massive than this pandemic. We
are all ill-prepared, but countries mired in convenient mythologies that
conceal brutal histories or devoted to authoritarian visions of social
order are especially vulnerable to reality. One handles reality by getting
real. Getting real as a society seems to me at least to mean not just
confronting the world crisis our very success as a species has brought
about, but engaging people in a new vision of democracy.

And on we go, to lunch. A locus of universal agreement that we can still
arrange to suit our needs, if we be so fortunate.


-- Paul

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