So….2020. What the fuck was that even? I don’t know, but I’m glad it’s almost over.
No, I don’t expect all the bullshit and misery to be swept away in a champagne supernova at 12:00 A.M. on January 1, 2021, but I am hoping we can all view the new year as a chance to move in a new direction. The availability of COVID-19 vaccines and a non-authoritarian administration in the White House seems like a good start.
I was very lucky that the pandemic didn’t affect me much. Work-wise, most of my major clients are in plague-resistant sectors (particularly law, finance, and education), so I’ve been busy most of the year. I’ve worked exclusively from home for the last five years or so, and I’m about as much of a hermit as you can be in a big city, which has helped me avoid the getting sick thus far. I’m also glad that no one I know has died or suffered long-term effects from COVID-19. (Knock on wood.) Additionally, being single means I didn’t get to be part of the divorce industry that bloomed in the midst of the social and economic upheaval. Bullet. Dodged.
Of course, hermitting can only shield one so much. The broader effects of the twin plagues of COVID and fascism (both amplified by the perpetual wellspring of human stupidity) are still spreading and have the potential to re-emerge in more virulent forms.
It’s been a scary year, to be sure, but there were glimmers of hope as the better angels of our nature forged their swords in the blazing trashfires of 2020.
The early stages of the pandemic proved that even in the midst of fear, suffering, and tragedy, there are people who will volunteer to help others by donating to food banks or other charities, or by delivering food and other goods to neighbours who are ill, quarantined, or otherwise vulnerable to COVID-19. In my apartment building, I’ve even seen people post offers to phone people who feel depressed and isolated by the pandemic to make sure that no one is alone.
In the U.S., multitudes of antifascist protestors masked up and risked their health, safety, and even their lives to publicly confront the gross injustices that have been perpetuated against BIPOC, the malfeasance of police who commit these offences or turn a blind eye to them, and the legal system that allows this horror to continue.
While every decent human being wishes none of this had happened, I think everyone of good conscience can at least agree that the diversity of the crowd driving the antiracism protests is a sign of hope that marks a significant shift from many of the civil rights protests of the mid-twentieth century. While it’s a small sign of progress amid the grievous lack of systemic change, it is nonetheless a critical one. The ability to see yourself in someone who doesn’t look or speak like you is the ultimate show of humanity. No society, regardless of its legal system or method of government, can achieve lasting peace and equality without it.
Mind you, I’m not a big fan of all-out revolts as they have a terrible way of careening sideways,* but there is no question that a society marked by blatant abuses of power and supported by violent nationalist forces is not a ship that will right itself. Peaceful protests are the ideal, but I am never going to tell someone who is being physically attacked not to defend themselves. And no, someone disagreeing with your racism does not constitute justification for assaulting them, FYI.
Yes, I understand why some promote passive resistance to force, but that can only take you so far. Martin Luther King’s protests made a huge impact in the 1960s, but the same fight is being fought more than 50 years later. Frankly, this is partly because the audience this tactic appeals to largely comprises the sorts of people who can’t be arsed to give a damn about their fellow human beings. And if you’re the sort of person who needs to watch someone get beaten to a pulp before you give a shit about them, you are a terrible person. Fuck you. No one should have to kowtow to your lack of human sensibility, and I, for one, will gladly throw you out with the 2020 bath water.
But I don’t really need to go on about all this awful shit—you’ve probably endured more of it than I have, and I will give you a big, fat hug once we’re allowed to touch other people again. So let’s get back to looking forward, shall we?
Tomorrow, December 21, 2020, will be the shortest day and longest night of the year. And so, with cautious optimism protectively cradled under one arm, I raise a glass to all the brave souls who have fought to save lives and preserve that which is good and just in society. May we all see the the light at the end of the tunnel, and may it be a glorious sunrise rather than an oncoming train. Fingers crossed.
* For example, let us not forget that the French Revolution—which was largely instigated by the bourgeoisie rather than the lower classes—produced total chaos followed by a dictatorship and then the reinstitution of the monarchy. Not exactly the desired result. However, I am all for dredging up that gruesome symbol of the guillotine, which represents the lengths the governed will go to when governments persistently fail them. The seat of power should never be a comfortable place to rest one’s backside.