“After” is the name given in Spain to nightclubs, very often illegal, which open after the rest close their doors. Life goes on at the “After” while most people sleep. Tired and excited, night birds cross paths with “normal” people as the later go to work in the morning.
After the interruption of our dystopic normality by Covid 19, life will happen, if ever, “After”.
“Post” has been our post-ideological condition under post-capitalism. There was no way out of this “Post”: post-socialist, post-colonial, post-feminist, post-identitarian…, Leaving aside an increasingly unthinkable revolutionary take over, Fascism seemed to be the only alternative. “Post” had displaced anything valuable which may come after… before “After” came up.
As in “Post”, there is no way back “After”. The pandemic lock-down has short-circuited our existing flow economy, suspending or decelerating the apparently endless (and senseless) rhythm of things. Even if for many it has meant the degradation an already precarious situation, it has drawn a landmark in our common vital experience which is waiting to find new cultural forms to express itself.
Stretching the analogies with night life, in the “After” you keep on dancing till the sun is up or your body gets exhausted. The promise of an extension of life and joy pushes you forward, even if chemical supplements may be needed to go on. There is no truth nor lie, no good nor bad. Beauty and identity get blurred and confused. Rules exist but they only work as long as the music goes on.
The young feminist critic Elisabeth Duval’s recent book After-Trans reflected upon identitarian politics in this “After” situation. At day light positions seem sharp and clear. What I am and what you are not: I am/you are not a man, I am/you are not a woman. Only one can be right; preferably me, the normative subject. The application of this compulsory logic to anyone else: being trans, queer or non-binary, as lately observed, inevitably leads to a mousetrap.
But the conventional terms of the political debate today are very much like conversations held at bars before they close at curfew. They intend to normativize social space but, as we know, “real” interactions and dealings are taking place “After”. “After” gives time and space for a different kind of play.
Madrid has been the European after club in the last few months due to the suicidal/assassin neoliberal policies of a local government which attracted youngsters from France and other northern countries escaping from their strict confinements. They were said to be seeking “freedom” as opposed to the limitations and vans of “communism” and state control.
Perhaps they were just impatient to live “After”. The Left should not let the alt-right colonize and totally connote the desire for an “After”. “After” is whatever will happen in this time of exception opened by Covid, before an even more dystopic normality gets restored. “After” was surely already in the hearts, imagination and experience of migrants and refugees, of many women, youths, trans and queer people who were not allowed to have a proper life “yet”, and that we should all learn from them, since “After” may be the contemporary word for “future”.