Things I’ve Learned in 2020

It’s December 28th and I cannot believe that the end of this godforsaken year is in sight. What a trash fire it’s been. While I’ve been financially privileged enough that I didn’t have to worry too much about whether I could afford to have a roof over my head or food to eat–thank god. But, as with many people, I had my fair share of suffering this year.

It’s also been a year of lessons. I’ve learned so many things about myself and about the world around me I probably couldn’t quantify it all or coherently write it in less than a million words. Still, I’m going to share a handful of what I’ve learned this year.

Warning: I may start ranting a little. And of course, these are my opinions based on my own point of view and understanding… please don’t yell at me if you disagree.

Education is more important than ever

This was the year I discovered that we are living in a “post-truth era,” which basically means that shared standards for objective truths no longer exist. This type of philosophy has gained a tight grip on society with the emergence of emotional-based politics, which uses strong feelings of hatred, pride, and fear to spur on its followers.

Obviously this isn’t something that is unique to this particular year, but this year is when I learned the name and it seemed to come into very harsh focus.

Personal beliefs and individual convenience took precedence over science and health care. Suddenly expert researched topics on the virus and its subsequent vaccine were up to debate by people who had no proper or formal education in the field or had done even a sliver of actual research. Opinions are taken as fact, conspiracy theories that prey on feelings of vulnerability and fear run rampant, and armchair experts preach their doctrines via Youtube or any other social media platforms.

I’ve always been into the idea of education for all. I see it as a right. And I think it’s more important than ever that everyone receives proper and well-rounded education. Of course, this also means that many education systems and curriculums, especially in the Western world, need an overhaul to make them more inclusive of non-white histories and perspectives. But, I think the place to start is making it accessible and affordable to everyone at all walks of life.

It is just one drop in the big pond of problems. But with more individuals taught how to think critically and do their own research into topics that interest them, we might see a decrease in people being manipulated by conspiracy theories.

Individual freedom and social responsibility are not mutually exclusive

If I had a quarter for every time I saw or heard someone going off about their “individual rights and freedoms” I’d have so many quarters. What makes me laugh, in the most bitter and pathetic way, is that these people have replaced “individual freedoms” with some horrifically mutant libertarian philosophy where selfishness is the highest ideal and tough to anyone else.

Humans are social beings instinctually–always have been. We (the human race) has worked together for hundreds of thousands of years to create the world we live in today. It hasn’t been perfect, but the things we’ve accomplished are sometimes downright miraculous. When you are born into humanity, there’s an unwritten contract that you are now part of a community with certain rules (ie. don’t kill your neighbour just because you feel like it) and a sense of social responsibility. You take care of others and others will take care of you.

But, recently, in the face of some somewhat minor inconveniences (like not being able to get BBQ the exact time you want it or not being able to go window shopping at the mall or wearing a cloth mask) the idea of social responsibility goes out the window. Potentially keeping loved ones or even just strangers on the street safe by doing or not doing one thing is too much for some people.

In the face of lockdowns, which would massively decrease the spread of the virus, people start shouting about freedoms and dictatorships–as if these North American white people have ever experienced a real tyrannical dictator. It didn’t matter that hundreds of thousands of people would die (more so than other horrific tragedies like 9/11), because the government is telling people to stay home they’re pissed.

Of course, everyone thinks they’re the exception to the rule. Bob down the street might die from COVID but they personally won’t–but only in the imagined fantasy of their minds. A family may think that they’ve been careful for so long, nothing will happen if they break the rules. But, that’s not how the virus works. The virus is not an emotional being, it doesn’t know that you’ve been following protocols for months and only wanted one day to act “normal” or whatever. The virus doesn’t care and will infect you anyway.

This is where the idea of social responsibility comes in. If we ALL work together, and put our individual wants aside, we can make sure that many more people survive.

There is no normal to go back to

I wish politicians would stop saying that once the pandemic is over things will “go back to normal.” After a year like this, there is no normal to go back to. There is only a new normal we can create.

Do we really want to go back to a world where frontline healthcare and retail workers are vastly underpaid and overworked? Where LTC and retirement homes lack proper funding and safety inspections? Where socio-economic divisions exclude marginalized communities from access to healthcare? Where peoples’ productivity is more important than their health and they can’t afford to take time off anyway? Where people are one paycheque away from homelessness?

The pandemic shone a light on all the deep and long-ignored cracks in our society. So, why go back when we can go forward and do better for ourselves and for our communities?

The normal of 2019 only worked for those who had the privilege to ignore these glaring issues. The normal of 2019 had the Ontario government scaling back LCT inspections and cutting funding to healthcare and education.

COVID isn’t going to be eradicated any time soon, so that’s another thing we will need to move forward to deal with.

I’d rather not move backwards, but continue on forwards in a direction where vast improvements can be made to society to benefit those who need it most.


Now for some more lighthearted content. Since it’s the end of the year, I figured I’d share some of my favourite things from 2020! These are not necessarily things from 2020, but what I discovered this year or really appreciated.

Books

  • The Seven 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton
  • Anxious People by Fredrik Backman
  • American Primitive by Mary Oliver (poetry)

Movies

  • Little Women (2019/Greta Gerwig)
  • Soul (Pixar)
  • Hamilton

Shows

  • Great Canadian Baking Show/Great British Bake Off
  • Modern Family
  • Hannibal

*Shout out goes to Taylor Swift for 2 amazing albums this year and to Animal Crossing for keeping me zen!

I’ve decided to forego any talk of accomplishments or major goals because I feel like simply getting through the year was accomplishment enough. And I’m not going to jinx it by making any statements about what I’m going to do in the new year… just in case.


Thanks so much for reading! I hope you all have had a wonderful holiday and continue to stay safe and well into the new year.

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