Yes, we know… a lot of bad things happened in 2020. As disaster after disaster befell the world, people were quick to vocalize their disdain for the year.
Looking back on 2020, the whole thing appears to be a doomsday prophet’s fever dream. The year started with Australia on fire. Photographs circulated of a maelstrom of hellfire consuming the outback. Then the news cycle was dominated by headlines spreading the word that Ukrainian Flight 752 was shot down in Iran. Additional tensions between Iran and the United States suggested a steady creep towards war. The Doomsday Clock ticked towards midnight.
Then COVID-19 spread worldwide.
With everyone experiencing the insufferable boredom of their first full-on lockdown, no one had anything better to do than shitpost jokes about how they can’t wait for the year to be over.
Well, guess what, it’s 2021’s time to shine.
You waited with bated breath, anxiously posting the distracted boyfriend meme where the girlfriend is labelled 2020 and the “other woman” 2021. The bad year is over, and the good year has begun! That means we can all celebrate, right? Right? Then you turn on the TV and see Trump fanatics cosplaying as Vikings on CSPAN and realize the nightmare continues. You flip the channel and realize that COVID case numbers are still rising. You change the channel again to see the mega-douche Elon Musk is now the world's richest person.
There is no escaping it – 2021 is going to be worse than 2020.
Have we forgotten 2016 already? The world wept not just because of Trump’s election but also because of celebrity deaths and a failed Ghostbusters reboot. Under scrutiny, many of the world’s recent catastrophes can be directly linked to things that happened that year. Trump’s election in 2016 led to the complete failure of the U.S. to manage the Coronavirus pandemic.
Believe it or not, but you can even draw links between the hate directed at the Ghostbusters reboot and the current U.S. political climate. Opposition to the all-female Ghostbusters film appeared to originate from piranhas leftover from the misogynistic Gamergate crowd. The semantics surrounding the film threw fuel on the fire of burgeoning anti-feminist, far-right rhetoric spreading in internet dark corners with ideological ties to groups like the Proud Boys, Turning Point, and others that have contributed to political turmoil happening in the U.S.
Think of it this way: everything that you think makes 2020 a terrible year will just be the catalyst for many far worse things to come.
Coronavirus in 2020? Pshh, a walk in the park compared to the beating the world will take when the next pandemic rattles a population riddled with post-COVID lung problems. You think Trump was bad? Wait until you see the next far-right demagogue that putrefies into existence in response to the Democrats' constant failure to produce or harness meaningful social movements. Trump’s hissy fit of a presidency will appear a pathetic whimper in comparison to a reactionary figure that isn’t too lazy to harness the destructive power of their base.
2021 doesn’t look all that bright when you consider how it is just the natural conclusion to 2020 and the inevitable cause of whatever shitstorm awaits us in a couple of years.
The casual banter may seem harmless. You might not even realize you are doing it. But the mindless small talk, the chatter that amounts to no more than “2020 sucks” ends up reproducing an ideology of complacency, irresponsibility, and nihilism that prevents any real change or progress from happening. Words have power, and when we contain the awesome events of the past year into the cultural branding of “shitty things that occurred in 2020,” we restrict our understanding of the events and lessen our ability to foresee and prevent them. Others are attempting to deconstruct and point out the warning signs that preceded and the unfortunate consequences to come. It’s not a pretty narrative, and it is certainly not one that allows a joyous celebration of 2021.
But in the sombre reality lies a happy ending that our world is not concrete, and things can change. This year we saw sincere attempts at spreading positive energy, creating productive activist movements, and bridging social gaps between a variety of demographics. These are projects that are not limited to the year 2020, and that we should ensure thrive in the years to come. So while, yes, 2021 is going to suck, let's create some nice things for ourselves instead of just complaining.