I recently watched a video recorded by a driver touring the elegant district in mid-Manhattan around Fifth and Madison Avenues. For six minutes he was showing the boarded-up landmark shops of Gucci, Versace, Breitling and the likes. I had never realized how many high-end shops there were there. Some may have been boarded up because of broken windows as a result of the riots, others as a precautionary decision to avoid being vandalized and robbed. But independent of the reasons, the view of this line of boarded-up shops was something striking for me because they are icons of a culture. Boarded-up, they reminded me of an installation made by Christo, who wrapped up buildings and iconic places, making us see them in a new way – as if seeing them in their absence.
What would Madison Avenue be like without those stores? How would Manhattan, how would the world, how would we be without those stores? I am not referring to the beautiful objects they offer, nor to the industries that produce the objects, nor to the employment they provide. I am thinking of the stores as icons of a culture of want, a culture that offers us ways to define who we are. But – is that all we are?
The question comes very timely for me, because as I am concerned with the sustainability of our way of life – endless wants on a finite planet, I know that we have to urgently and radically change the way we do almost everything. That is impossible!
Impossible…? Now COVID is showing us that it is possible – not in the form we would have chosen – but nevertheless.
Every day I am discovering some new things that COVID is teaching me. What insights and discoveries are you making?