An Ode to 2020

When we sat around television last year on New Year’s Eve watching the fireworks boom in London at 12am on 1st January 2020, there was a sense of hope. I remember hoping that this would be a good year – that things would be a little bit brighter for everyone than they had been before. I think everyone felt that. A new decade – the roaring ’20s. We were going to have Gatsby parties and everything.

Yet in China, there had been a growing fear about a slight issue called Coronavirus. On 1st January 2020, none of us had a clue really that it would come to impact us the way it had. None of us knew we’d have to be terrified every day of how we’d keep our family safe and how we’d keep them happy. None of us knew that suddenly we may not be able to see our family. Suddenly windows were like prison bars and a walk was a state-sanctioned exercise.

That wasn’t all 2020 had for us, though. Around the world there have been massive disasters, tragedies and catastrophes. It’s hard to keep track of them all. It began with the Australian bushfires. Mass devastation in the country led to thousands sheltering, abandoning and losing their homes. Shortly after, this is when COVID made her starring appearance. Halfway through the pandemic, we saw racial tensions explode in America when George Floyd, a black man, was murdered on camera by white police officers. People have watched and shared the video millions of times – and each time we are reminded of this murder, it is equally as disturbing. It triggered a massive upheaval, though, with us getting to (quite sickeningly) know many names of black people who have been victims of police brutality and neglect. Breonna Taylor is just one of them, but there are so many more.

Following George Floyd’s murder, the world began to protest (during which more black Americans were killed by the police) share petitions constantly to demand change. People protested. Black Lives Matter was suddenly thrust into the centre of our lives for longer than we have ever had it before. Politicians took the knee. Politicians also encouraged violence and discouraged taking the knee. You be the judge of who’ll be on the right side of history when our grandchildren are analysing this year in an Edexcel textbook.

The next thing was a huge explosion in Lebanon, killing 178 people and injuring more than 6,500. It also left 300,000 people homeless (WHO figures). In a single moment, the lives of so many innocent people simply changed. They searched for days for babies and children in the wreckage. Think for a second about the sheer scale of this explosion and the impact it has had on the lives of so many. 300,000 homeless. Imagine one day you wake up and by the time night falls, you’ve lost everything.

We have lost over 1.5 million people to COVID alone, most of which were lost this year. Think for a moment about how many relatives that is. How many relatives may have actually died within days or weeks of each other after contracting the disease. Think about how many families’ lives have been changed by something most of us had no idea about on 1st January 2020.

It’s an understatement to say that we will all be glad to see the back of this year. We are actively wishing it away – and rightly so. More than any year since the War ended, there has not been a time so traumatic for the world. While we saw the winning of the US election by someone who doesn’t deny freedom of the press, the existence of climate change and COVID, it is a small glimmer of hope in a world full of absolute misery. We have a vaccine, though, which is the ray of light at the end of this long, dark tunnel.

2020 has not been what any of us wanted. But it was, at the end, rescued by the scientists who created this incredible vaccination that will quite literally save the world. It is almost impossible to believe that they will be able to just give us a couple of jabs and we will be free, sooner rather than later, of this horrible, depressing state we’re in. Even though it’s too late for too many, it is, after all, the only way out. But it won’t solve all of our problems. I dare to dream I’ll be allowed to stand at a sweaty gig again next year with my sister, but I don’t dare to dream that the people of the world will have a change of heart.

While the vaccine will save the immediate threat to us in 2021, it can’t solve the other issues that have surfaced this year. Namely: racism, poverty, climate change, inequality and extreme power imbalances. There was a taste of the hunger for something to solve this back in the summer. It seemed people wanted a better world. But did they? Or was it a distraction from the biggest problem at hand?

I suppose only time will tell. Now I am sorry to depress you all with this piece. It’s been a dark year – there’s no sugarcoating it. Glimmers of hope have made it slightly more optimistic. A bit of our old lives may be returned to us soon. There is a way out of 2020, and it’s on it’s way.

2021, please be better.