Ashwini Kumar Rath

2020 - The Year that Reflected the Ills within Us

Jan 1, 2021

‘Fate took over’ if I have to describe how the year 2020 went past us. Coronavirus was already banging at the door, loud and clear when governments around the globe were celebrating their medieval power-gimmicks and went deaf. The unfortunate aspect of all these was that most countries that made the mistakes of country-wide lockdowns and spread panic through media outlets had democratically elected governments. In principle, these governments reflected the popular wisdom. Perhaps, this is why I term the happenings as our collective fate - the outcome of our misdoings. The ‘fate’ did not allow our ‘wisdom’ to extend its wings, and we lost a year. 

Looking at what is going on in economies, power games between governments and regressive attitudes of general populations worldwide, I would concede that we shall need an additional year or maybe several years to compensate. 

Let us now see the interesting things that we witnessed through the outgoing year. We saw more scientists disclose their half-baked research findings on social media and within 140 characters. Some state heads turned scientists supervising research, and advocating faster vaccine development and validation even at the cost of lack of peer scrutiny. We did human trials in haste - even rats were in a panic mode if we shall ignore them altogether. This phenomenon is the next level of the ‘wisdom of the crowds’ - more than what Francis Galton would have thought.

Understanding the Coronavirus pandemic is the most important subject of interest and intrigue throughout the whole year. The perspectives are varying with blind blame, pointers to conspiracies or gross display of stupidity.

Conspiracy theories went viral with the spread of the Coronavirus. ‘Assuage with prayers,’ some preached. “Blame it on Muslims,” others advocated. Autocratic leaders in different countries promoted different theories as appropriate to their geographies and belief among people. The only good thing is that Muslim fundamentalists went into confusion with the madness of these autocratic leaders worldwide and violence due to Muslim terrorism saw a drastic reduction. 

Taking advantage of the panic and confusion due to pandemic, the crony capitalists consolidated their power over those weak autocratic leaders in different countries and expanded their wealth. It also created avenues for exploiting the situation to bring malpractices in healthcare. The news of vaccines, their applicability and availability went into the realm of speculation due to corporate lobbies. Right-wing and left-wing ideologues went into an argument that these tricks belong to their opposite camps - in fact, both sides seemed to be the source of confusion that led to a series of consolidations in the corporate domain. Speaking plainly, workers and small business units lost out while large corporations close to ruling dispensations in respective countries went super-rich. And this may trigger a possibly long and intense class struggle soon.

Celebrities and a section of the upper economic middle-class population went into social media to highlight their newfound interests during the pandemic and their sympathies with labourers who migrated en masse during India’s lockdowns. Many even justified the lockdown while posting photos, ‘how Nature is relieved of their abuse’ - photographs of a clean environment during the lockdown days. These are the people who are the primary beneficiaries of the industrialisation that caused pollution and who inject more pollution into air every day directly and indirectly. 

In short, people worked tirelessly to defeat themselves. People fell for controversy theories and lost the necessary sense of scientific temper - failed to perform citizens’ role in a democracy. On the other hand, the year 2020 also offered ample opportunity for us to repent and reflect. Hopefully, the new year will bring our citizenship to the forefront.

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