"I’ll tell you what freedom is to me: no fear." - Nina Simone
Entangled in a virtual communications network, in between thousands of e-mails, Whatsapp messages and videocalls mandatory to complete this issue, all of Vogue team was far from imagining that the theme "Freedom", chosen over six months ago for the april magazine, would be crowned with the irony of a virus called Corona that would strip us from the liberty we took for granted everyday, especially in the simpler and invisible gestures that only confinement made us hugely acknowledged.
And all seems to be suspended, until real life stops looking like fiction. We feel like we're characters in a movie which script is even familiar to us, as streets and supermarket shelves become empty, the hand sanitizer runs out and people buy everything you can imagine in anticipation of an apocalyptical scenario, while hospitals become real war zones. It's nothing short of scary, both to the ones who don't understand what's happening as to those who do and see a little further on what are the real magnitude of this and future implications of it... Because, after all, the script is familiar to us, particularly the script that Humanity's own history has written and re-written, too many times, as if it insisted on teaching us something that seems impossible to learn.
Even more viral than the virus itself seems to be the fear that infected a whole society, a whole world, connected by technology and media, that more than broadcasting relevant messages, insists on a live reportage of casualties minute by minute, of useful information mixed with alarming non-information that doesn't filter what's essential from what's sensational, that feeds voraciously this blind fear, the true panic, that strips us more of freedom than the pandemic state we face. And it's that panic, precisely, that can cause more casualties than the virus itself.
Consciousness and responsibility, both individual and collective, which should shed light, in some way, on the path, seems to merge with fundamentalism and hysteria, promoted mainly through social media, where everyone's looking for a speaker's corner, a stand to call attention, to judge, to point fingers, and mainly to praise oneself as an exceptional and abiding human being. Containing the propagation of the virus, social and individual responsibility is a duty for ALL OF US, the ones that can afford to stay home as well as of those who have the courage to still head to work, whichever area that may be. This is not the time to go by as usual, it's not the time to be hypocritical. It's not the time to enjoy windows of individual opportunism and even less of a political one. It's not the time to divide ourselves, it's not the time to wanting to be right instead of doing right, using reason. It's also not the time to use reason without emotion. It's not the time to throw stones when all we need is to go back to a time when we can hold each other.
It's the moment to feel fear, yes, but not a paralyzing panic. It's the moment to realize what we're really scared of, of standing face to face with that same fear, so it can turn itself into some form of action. Fear and bravery have always gone hand in hand. Fear is directly linked to survival and to the most basic instincts, that are there to protect us. All that we can't control can lead us to an authentic desperation. Death, illness, natural catastrophies, pain of loss may make our freedom hit an existential rock bottom, but despair and fear can be constructive emotions, the prelude of any conquest, that of liberty itself. The moment to free ourselves of all that we cling to, including our own neurosis, pre-conceived ideas and delusional hopes, the moment to rethink everything and recreate oneself, which is not possible in the comfortable moldes of an undisturbed existence. The unexpected is scary, change is scary. Fear is a reaction, the courage of a decision.
The courage to change, the courage to rise again and start from scratch all that is necessary, the courage to reach out fearlessly to those who need us, courage to love and share in difficult times is the only thing that can cure. Life, as we know it, is in pause. Freedom, as we receive it, is also on pause. But freedom isn't something you receive or a given fact, it's something that you rediscover, redesign and conquer, every day. The biggest paradox of liberty is its interaction with destiny, where chance and our choices merge to become who we are. Freedom is what we decide to do with the cards we have, but the cards we have were dealt to us.
"Everything can be take away from a man", wrote Viktor Frankl, austrian psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor, in his essay on the human search for a meaning, "anything but one thing, the last of human freedoms: decide your attitude in any scenario of circumstances, finding your own path."*
LOVE IN THE TIME OF CORONAVIRUS
In a time when the editorial world saw cancelled most of its shoots for matters of public health, models Bibi Baltovic and Adam Bardy, a couple living in Slovakia, were photographed for one of our two april covers, by the lense of Branislav Simoncik. The love, the kiss, symbols of freedom, now suspended, as a historical record of the moment Humanity faces. Because the cover of a magazine should also be seen as a time capsule, that encloses the image of the symbolic mask (created specifically for this photo by designer Lukas Kimlicka) that covered the kiss, the hug, the union we are all llonging, now, and will remember later, looking back. So we can remind ourselves never to take anything for granted.
Full credits on Vogue Portugal's Freedom issue, published april 2020.