Rewind 2020: The Year in Review
Britain leaves Europe once and for all in January, promising a bit of peace and quiet from the rest of the world, blissfully unaware that a job-stealing virus has already illegally migrated to its shores. Australia’s bushfires continue over from the previous year, amounting to forty-seven acres of land scorched, three billion animal deaths and what will turn out to be a thoroughly unimpressive number of human deaths. The Duke and Duchess of Essex rightfully recognise the House of Windsor as decadent and illegitimate and move to California to practice yoga and other esoteric traditions.
A Korean film about the desperation of poverty is publicly acknowledged by a room of American millionaires. Cases of coronavirus rise, and the world is dragged into one of the longest and most tedious conversations in human history. Hermeticism is dead. Cultivating a private life, despite all appearances, is dead. Everybody is soon to be forced to participate in the great international debate from isolation. Boris Johnson announces his engagement to a very ordinary-looking woman.
Lockdown begins. Nominally Catholic countries like Italy and Spain throw themselves into the full ecstasy of terror and ground their populations in their homes, while more humanistic countries like Sweden put the economy first. World leaders are accused of acting too late, then accused of being fascist in the very same breath. My neighbour says that anyone not wearing a facemask in public should be gutted in the town square. Afforded the mountains of leisure time and resources dreamt of only by Trotskyists, hundreds of thousands of furloughed logistics coordinators, bank clerks, shop assistants, marketing agents, business development managers and telephone operators fail to rise to the heights of Aristotle, Goethe, or Marx.
America revs up to an election in which it will elect a new Gerontocracy for the next four years while the rest of the world adjusts to the ‘new normal’. Britain’s office workers go to and from their places of work, get half-drunk at night, think briefly of death as they drag ready meals out of the oven and watch the television until they fall asleep; they find that it differs very little from the old normal. The less fortunate lose their livelihoods so that grandmother can continue to live a few more years. Grandmother spends the days much as she did before: missing grandfather terribly, sobbing in extended isolation, and praying that a nasty fall or a draft will wipe her out before Christmas. An American Hollywood producer formerly celebrated for working in an industry that promotes liberality, obscenity and unlimited sexual freedom is found guilty of rape and sentenced to twenty-three years in prison.
Another black man is killed by the police in the United States and the American people express their dissatisfaction by setting poor people’s neighbourhoods on fire. Banks, government buildings and pharmaceutical companies are spared, and the furor of the mob is instead directed toward local businesses, community centres and inanimate statues of dead men. One of the fortunate slaves of the Ottoman Empire who were not castrated by Turks, Miguel de Cervantes, has his memorial desecrated by protestors in San Francisco in protest of slavery, while a Catholic missionary is toppled to the ground nearby. The Ebola virus flirts with making a comeback.
Protests erupt in Britain like so many other American fashions. British Police take the knee by means of apology and promise to be even “fiercer” at the next Gay Pride Parade. The riots seem to quiet down around the time that grandmother remarks that there seem to be a lot more “coloured people” in advertisements nowadays. I begin drinking in the park and reading Firbank novels during the day.
The rest of the world breathes a sigh of relief as China demonstrates its military incompetence by firing ballistic missiles into the South China Sea, where nobody even lives. In America, a senile old man is chosen as the candidate for the Democratic party. A social liberal, he is criticised for having changed his opinions on abortion, homosexuality and crime to appease popular prejudice by those who do not realise what the point of social liberalism is. American conservatism is represented by a twice-divorced reality television star from the nouveau riche. One candidate throws money at the population while the other garbles incomprehensibly from a bunker. The latter wins, and his running mate becomes the first African American vice president-elect to actually come from the Carribean. Small businesses fail to adapt to the new normal while multi-billionaire corporations step in to deliver cured ham to my house. On his very last day at a private clinic for the stars, a podiatrist friend of mine twists a patient’s foot incredibly hard until he screams.
There is promise of a vaccine, and optimistic commentators claim that it may enhance one’s DNA or come with a free GPS. As the big day rolls around, Boris Johnson announces a Brexit deal which is very different to the autarkist feudalism that many of us had dreamed of in the voting booth. Mother cancels Christmas day with one day’s notice because it “isn’t worth the risk.” I accuse her of kowtowing to fascism and eat cold turkey alone in my bedsit in Slough.
Millions wait, attendant on the fresh year, fearful of realising what they must never realise: that when all this ends, and the nasty old year is dead and gone — when they can finally eat a croissant on a terrace and play squash at the leisure centre — that we are all, for some reason impossible to put one’s finger on, still desperately miserable; that we were always miserable, and that we will always be miserable. Michael B. Jordan is voted “Sexiest Man Alive 2020” by People Magazine.