Apologies for the mournful subject matter. I figured that if I was pondering this question then other people might be too.
It has been a grim few months. It seems that everything in the world is de-stabilising. Nationalism is growing. President Trump is acting like a crazy dictator who answers to no-one’s views but his own. Forthcoming elections in France and Germany could have long lasting consequences for Europe.
Is this how it felt in the 1930s?
If this does mirror the 1930s does this mean that there will be some kind of war?
For those of us growing up since the Second World War we have arrogantly assumed that peace will be ours forever. The thought of civil war in the USA, Putin flexing his muscles in a weakened Europe or one of Trump’s tweets setting off a terrible chain of events is something that we never expected to witness in our lifetime.
Against such serious events should we bother with our creative activities? Are they too trivial in the face of such nastiness? Should we be reaching for our tin hats and/or the nearest resistance movement?
A couple of weekends ago when President Trump’s travel ban took effect I was so gobsmacked by what I saw on the news that it felt like I was watching a news bulletin from the late 1930s. The next day when I was promoting my newly published blog on social media I didn’t post it on my own Facebook feed. It felt inconsequential against the seriousness and implications of the travel ban. I wasn’t sure that anyone would care about what I had to say and I was worried that it would make me look as if I didn’t care about the travel ban.
When I look back at previous wars, artists did keep creating. My favourite sculptor, Barbara Hepworth, was living in St Ives during the Second World War and kept making art. Her creations were modified by availability of material but she kept going.
At this time, people kept making and writing music and this helped the national psyche. Could you imagine Britain at war without songs such as The White Cliffs of Dover? If actors, writers and performers joined the army they often put their skills to good use there to provide relief for the soldiers. And Wilfred Owen kept writing with the grim reality of the trenches going on around him. We have all been touched by his poetry.
With war already brewing and then erupting in Europe, Hollywood kept making films. Gone With The Wind came out in 1939 and must have been a wonderful place to escape to on a dreary afternoon in Britain. The Wizard of Oz also came out that year. The song, Somewhere Over The Rainbow has lifted many a heart since then.
As I wrote the above paragraphs I have noticed that there is one word that I repeated – it is “kept”. They kept writing, they kept making music, they kept making art – if they could.
So this brings me to answer the question – would I keep writing if war arrived on my doorstep? This week I realised that I would. If it was possible then yes, I would keep writing. I would keep practising my craft. I would keep producing even if what I produced had no audience and was waiting for a better time to see the light of day.
I’m not advocating that we ignore what is going on around us and stick our heads into creative la-la land. In previous times of strife ordinary people have risen to extraordinary challenges and we will do the same. Some people are already doing that and some have fought oppression for all of their lives.
Instead I am advocating that we don’t let fear of war, trouble and strife stop us creating now. We must keep speaking our truth through the medium of our art. We must keep creating value for ourselves and others from it. We must not allow fear to get between us and our art.
And should the worst happen, we will do what has to be done, creative and otherwise.
Photo source – © IWM Q-70167. www.1914.org
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