We helpfully unpack the way this year hasn’t quite been the disaster we think it has. By Richie Black.
As we drag ourselves – slumped, wounded and slightly hungover – closer to the finishing line, it’s easy to think of 2020 as some kind of peak standard of suffering, death and general collapse.
Context helps a tiny bit. So, let’s remember that 1932 – with an employment level of 29 per cent – wasn’t a barrel of laughs either. Similarly, there were also really sour years around the 10th century that were so bad peeps often refer to them as the Dark Ages.
And there were a few silver linings in the past 12 months – if you really wanted to look for them. Without diminishing any of the considerable trauma experienced, let’s think of the few redemptive aspects to 2020.
YOU DIDN’T HAVE TO ASSOCIATE
Working from home, we could keep office politics (to some degree) at a social distance. Best of all, you didn’t have to handle the casual small talk with your more egregious colleagues.
Yeah, we know here were issues. For parents with young children this was problematic in the same way that holding down a full-time job while trying to herd a bunch of especially contrarian cats is.
But at least every time you went to your own private kitchen you didn’t have to contend with a white-collar ne’er-do-well lurking there asking you chirpily, “How was your weekend?” or “What are you having for lunch?”
These people are invariably called Glenn – they use the term “buddy” a lot – and suddenly you could cheerfully forget about them apart from Zoom meetings. Yes, then their bulbous, keen-eyed face(s) would hove into view on your screen.
But after an hour you could switch him off and Glenn would disappear into the ether. You were released. Freedom beckoned, you could permit yourself a mid-afternoon nap and so on.
Cynical, us? We’re just trying to make the best of a bad pandemic.
WE WERE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER
There we were, barricading ourselves away – and suddenly, strangely apart, we were all apart together. It was tough but – at least, in the most banal stages of lockdown, as tensions eased a little and we had enough toilet paper – we could complain together, via the miracles of Zoom or Twitter.
We could console ourselves that we were living in unprecedented times, to forgive ourselves for being unproductive and lethargic and anti-social. We reached out to those we wouldn’t normally – family, friends, that random you matched with on Tinder – and agreed that we were all bereft.
Many introverts would admit in private that they were, in some ways, having a good time. They were happily miserable. They were actually supposed to stay inside.
“Isn’t it terrible, I’m stuck at home all day and lonely – just like I always wanted.”
We were practically living in a Smiths song.
THERE WAS COVER
In lockdown – let’s face it – we let things go. “Things” is a term we apply abstractedly. Admit it, though, you relaxed more than usual. We’re not here to judge. The point is that, at our worst, we could claim the anonymity of the masks.
This proved beneficial on early morning jaunts to the shops after a hard night of solitary confinement.
THERE WAS PEACE
A somewhat eerie calm descended, especially under the flight path in the Inner West – which was suddenly largely bereft of the sound of metallic shrieking that would normally pass overhead at regular intervals.
And without the movement of vehicles – the pervasive white noise of traffic dimmed – all we were left with was our thoughts. Which was okay, in principle. Unless those thoughts dwelt too much on the implications of that.
That we were alone – that our future was uncertain, we were doomed, etcetera. Thankfully, we had Netflix to provide some consolation, particularly when sport, with its bizarre cardboard grandstand figures and fake ambient crowd noises – suddenly seemed to become a figment of its own imagination.
Meanwhile, the Sentinel has also noted the way the disruption to travel restrictions provided a real environmental benefit.
Okay, yeah, true – the other part of this particular story is that the workers associated with the airline industry were suffering greatly. Really, there are no glib one-liners to properly account for that.
We also admitted to our privileges and were looking for some positives in a dire situation – and the possibilities for a direction for the future. And in 2020, we need all that forward thinking we can get. Sometimes peace and quiet helps, ya know?
WE’RE DOING ALRIGHT
2020 is the year for claiming “alright”, “okay”, and *shrug your shoulders* will do. The Sentinel suggests you embrace that.
Remember, back in April, it seemed like we were staring down the barrel of a particularly bombastic disaster movie.
NSW health care workers were being warned to expect 8000 deaths from the coronavirus with up to 1.6 million people expected to be hit by the first wave.
But then (for which we are thankful for our governing bodies, medical services and front-line workers) it didn’t quite happen on that scale. Unlike the US, our politicians seemed to consider the expert opinion of those experts with said opinion. And the public, aside from, yeah, a bizarre obsession with hoarding toilet paper – largely did the decent thing.
The number of victims were still significant – and Melbourne’s second wave was scary as shit – but as Grattan Institute chief executive Danielle Wood recently told The Sydney Morning Herald, the country has reached “a best case scenario”.
True, we’re not done with this pandemic yet – but, well, let’s not blame 2020 on that.
Alan Jones’s radio career died and he went to Sky News, but most of the political victories that were won, we’ll admit, apply to Victoria.
South of the border, pale white heads have consistently objected to the Covid response of their state Labor Government.
Many of these talking pancakes (accumulated via the Vic Libs, the IPA, Sky News and even The Footy Show) preach something called libertarianism – always seemingly defined by the emphasis they put on their own freedom, typically to screech loudly, as opposed to yours.
Besides their insistent hectoring – and that of their supporters in the Murdoch media – in 2020 they always seemed to be wrong, even when, yes, the Andrews Government had to recover from the second wave of an outbreak. But it was eventually brought under control … then their tangerine hero lost an election in November.
Meanwhile – as we’ve noted – Alan Jones lost his radio gig – which was probably enough for NSW.
There’s a sense that the tide might be turning in favour of the goodies.
IT’S ALMOST OVER
One of the most redemptive things about 2020 is simply that it’s almost over. Forget the fact each year we promise ourselves the next will be different – and celebrate the promise it will be hypothetically great – this time it really will be. Right?
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