Looking into the future: What are the key anxieties facing us in the post-COVID world?

© Brendan Shelper for battleROYAL

Last year’s unpredictable flow of events has brought on a wealth of concerns for individual lives, the corporate world, and governmental infrastructures alike. Most of all, it’s caused us to realize that we’ve become the unwilling victims of collective post-COVID fatigue — a sense of exhaustion nurtured by the fundamental shifts our world has undergone.

“Every age has its afflictions,” writes German-Korean philosopher Byung-Chul Han of the ailments specific to the digitized era of surveillance capitalism. In his book, The Burnout Society, Han openly addresses what he understands to be the main downfall of the Anthropocene: a vulnerable mental health, resulting in depression, anxiety and burnouts, all of which are triggered by our being geared towards individual survival, with no room left for enjoyment or connection. Sure enough, a global pandemic is unlikely to offset this survival mode. But in order to figure out how to best move forward, both as people and as societies, facing our deepest fears head on might just be the cold shower we need to quash them.

© Brendan Shelper for battleROYAL

One benefit of the pandemic has been the realization that the collective matters — none of what we feel, experience or dread is (or should be) an individual cross to bear. For better or worse, in sickness and in health, we are surrounded, supported and empowered by our communities. Today, alienation from one another through unhinged individualism is no longer an option: as it turns out, in unity lies strength, success, and progress.

Community needs no sugarcoating. Unity is not not a pre-packaged New Age utopia — nor is it an empty, digestible pop adage. It’s a conscious way of moving through the challenges we’re presented with, with an understanding that we’re not alone.

As the world at large and the entertainment industries regain a semblance of normalcy, what are the issues preventing our collective blossoming? What are the lingering question marks regarding the world of tomorrow? And, crucially — what can we do about them?

© Brendan Shelper for battleROYAL

First and foremost, our home is on fire. Urbanized areas have been burning down, and natural disasters springing left, right and centre. If most of this is due to poor governmental action and a heavily carbonized economy, the COVID pandemic has prompted a civilian and corporate awakening to the fact that our everyday practices matter. For instance, the forceful if temporary halting of traveling and gathering has definitely instigated some uncertainty within the cultural sector, notably regarding the shape that creative production will take in the future. If fun is (perhaps more than ever) a necessity, how can we rethink what constitutes entertainment, live events, ceremonies and escapism without worsening the environmental state of affairs? Striking the right balance between our needs and those of the environment has certainly posed a challenge and source of worry for many, particularly after noticing the major environmental benefits of a less action-packed quotidian — reduced traffic and aerial pollution, reduced global demand for coal fuel, reduced harmful emissions, improved air and water quality in many areas of the world, notably in the Global South, suffering from heavy pollution. The list goes on, though we’ll leave it at that for brevity’s sake.

In terms of entrepreneurial, corporate and business practice, the previously entrenched neoliberal way of life has been flipped upside down — as have professional interactions. For events professionals, it would be rather redundant to stress the importance of interaction, exchange, and collaboration. As a creative and events production studio, human connection permeates each and every facet of not just our output, but our processes. Teamwork is as essential as audience gathering. In spite of restrictions slowly lifting, collective caution, doubt and fear linger. At the same time, our need for connection doubles. Office work seems as outmoded as Zoom fatigue is real. As the post-COVID future looms over us, we are compelled to reconsider the very structure supporting our collective existence of tomorrow.

© Brendan Shelper for battleROYAL

Last but certainly not least in our non-exhaustive round-up of COVID-era anxieties, is the ever-morphing notion of freedom. If the cult of virtually unlimited personal liberties has long served as a cornerstone of Western neoliberalism, nuancing our understanding of freedom to accommodate the well-being and prosperity of our communities and not just ourselves is essential — now more than ever. Conscious, group-minded lifestyle practices are no longer obstacles to our personal freedoms — they’re only a way of boosting them. Success, much like freedom itself, takes its noblest form when collectively beneficial.

Only just halfway through, 2021 is seeing hopefulness come back, along with a brand new set of collective apprehensions. As a company, we humbly try our best to take both things in stride — repurposing them into a brighter tomorrow.

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