I have to confess that I am not a natural Green Day fan, though having children of a certain age I am very familiar with Billy Joe Armstrong’s music. For those of you over the age of 35 that was the band that played on a floating set on the Simpson’s Movie to a rapturous reception until they wanted to ‘talk briefly about The Environment’ – at which point they were pilloried and their pontoon sank into the polluted waters of Lake Springfield. All of which leads me by a roundabout route to a YouTube clip that I watched last week. Have a look and listen via the link below…
A very distinctive voice that will inevitably polarise opinion, but I thought BJA delivered a song in a way that was utterly memorable. I have been lucky enough to visit most of the great world cities shown in the film, though they looked very different when I was at each. Crowded streets, by turn bustling, rattling and booming with frenetic activity as millions go about their daily routines. Each city is a monument to capitalism, to the accumulation of wealth, industry and trade, but each is also potent evidence of what is possible through human endeavour. Alongside the commuters, the office workers, the buyers and sellers is an ecosystem of Arts and Culture as human interaction and inventiveness works to generate still more layers of complexity. There is an energy, a pulse to city life that is unmissable and unmistakeable, and it doesn’t matter whether you seek it in San Francisco, Paris, London or Beijing. It can be intoxicating, overwhelming, exhausting even – but its very vibrancy brings these places to life.
But not now, not just at the moment. There is an unbearable poignancy in the pictures of streets empty of people, empty buses and subway trains and shops shuttered and silent. I feel the same, in essence, when duty calls me to school every couple of days and I drive through an empty market square and past shops with darkened interiors. You just don’t really appreciate what you have until it is under threat, and the words of that song somehow give voice to those feelings of isolation and loss. Schools will bounce back from this as will cities across the Globe, but I know that life will be different. So many things that we all simply took for granted have changed as the World wakes up from the test of Coronavirus.