by Uwe Bott*
Anyone who reflects on the “annus horribilis” of 2020 in these dark and cold days of winter is drawn to the horror of a global pandemic — that has infected over 80 million people worldwide and killed almost 1.8 million.
And we are struck by the economic carnage that necessary lockdowns — and other health precautions — have caused almost everywhere.
We are also frightened by the mental distress that resulted from the self-isolation — and the impact it might have had on suicide rates — or additional deaths from other causes or simply the impact which the pandemic has had on our happiness.
We look at the loss of our personal freedoms which, contrary to the fanciful thinking of some, were not the result of political oppression — but of the necessary interventions to keep more people from dying.
We also look at a world that, beyond the virus, has become politically more and more unstable. With autocratic regimes becoming even more assertive — and with some liberal democracies plunging themselves into self-inflicted chaos and self-doubt.
… to encouragement
But then we also look at the rapid development of several effective vaccines, already being deployed across large parts of the globe.
And, we appreciate the rescue of U.S. democracy — by virtue of voters determined to dispose of an erratic, xenophobic and increasingly dangerous President.
We also have witnessed the hunger for freedom by the people of Hong Kong — who by the hundreds of thousands flocked to the streets to demonstrate a reactionary law imposed on them by China. Their courage was exemplary (although it is now being squashed by authorities).
All of this gives us reasons for growing optimism and hope.
Brighter days ahead?
If all goes well, significant shares of the world’s population will be vaccinated against COVID 19 by the end of 2021. This seems like a long time from now — but it gives us something to look forward to.
It also gives our self-isolation a purpose — rather than simply viewing it as a function of lifeless self-preservation.
Just back to the old divisions?
Even the most optimistic among us are hardly expecting that the change of government in the United States will cure the political ills that country has to contend with.
They reach far beyond the division and divisiveness that Donald Trump wrought so systematically and mischievously.
Joe Biden will not act as Tweeter-in-Chief — but rather as a sober, measured and empathetic person. He will try to glue together what has been recklessly broken by his predecessor over the past four years.
Hope springs eternal – or does it?
Beyond the United States, most nations — and regions — also face steep challenges. Quite a few face considerably steeper ones than the United States does.
After all, the world’s biggest and oldest political pandemic — that of mis-leadership — persists in many places.
Just consider Russia: Today, for that country reaching a leadership that is not cynically exploiting its own people, still seems as far off as ever.
Meanwhile, in some places in Africa, there is hope insofar as the process of a true democratic transition is taking hold. That in itself says a lot about Russia’s level of development.
China, meanwhile, is firmly on the path that the Soviet Union aspired to — but could never deliver on. A materially satiated consumer society that is a hyper-technological version of Orwell’s animal farm.
Toward more appreciation
Despite all this, as we enter 2021, one can only hope that the new year might once come to be known as the year of the great appreciation.
We will not just get up and dust ourselves off — but we will rediscover our human soul. We will rejoice when we can hug all of our family members, friends — and even random strangers — without fear of spreading (or receiving) the deadly virus.
We will very consciously enjoy our visits to indoor restaurants, sharing meals, laughing with friends — and talking to whoever might be sitting next to us at a bar.
We will appreciate traveling without too many restrictions, awed by the world we get to discover. We will enjoy hanging out in our favorite grocery stores — not rushing through the aisles in artificial one-way traffic.
And we will once again fill sports stadiums, theaters and cinemas. And our cheers, chants or applause will no longer be pre-recorded — but will become a symbol of our regained freedoms. There will be heartfelt cries of liberation.
The big hope
If we are lucky, the post-pandemic will bring us all closer together — because those of us who were fortunate enough to survive will look at our fellow-human beings, first and foremost as such, joint survivors of a long and dark struggle.
If we are very lucky, this might even help us to heal some of our political divisions.
As the American writer, Laura Ingalls Wilder, once wrote: “It is the sweet, simple things of life which are the real ones after all.”
Her insight applies equally to the privileged — and the poor — as well as to the oppressed and the free.
And maybe, just maybe, the time of the pandemic will allow us all to find great appreciation in 2021 in those things that we were so brutally robbed of in 2020.
*Chief Economist of The Globalist Research Center and Senior Editor at The Globalist
**first published in: www.theglobalist.com