• Cam Nghiem

Farewell, 2020

Updated: Jan 17

It is a consensus that 2020 was quite a year - a year of chaos, of crisis, and of desperation. A person with a sane mind would not want to review such a year; such revision might trigger some PTSD. But still, the past is important for us to deal with the future and so, let us review the main events of 2020.


Coronavirus (Covid-19) and The Fight Against Populism


It is impossible to talk about 2020 without mentioning the coronavirus. According to the World Health Organization, as of the time this article is being written, there are 1,775,776 confirmed deaths and 80,453,105 cases of Covid-19.


This pandemic exposes the unpreparedness of the many countries, especially the United States and Brazil, in dealing with a pandemic. Such unpreparedness can be attributed to the rise of anti-intellectualism of those countries’ respective governments. Mr. Trump of the United States and Mr. Bolsonaro of Brazil led the charge. Their negligence, denial, and abrasiveness are one of the main reasons as to why these two countries have recorded the highest amount of Covid-19 deaths worldwide.


However, it must be understood that it is the people, through democratic means, who elected leaders such as Mr. Trump and Mr. Bolsonaro. This is due to the rise of populism around the world in recent years. Perhaps the world of scientists and politicians have become too elitist that when a person claims to be “for the people”, they can get elected despite their incompetence. Future democracies must learn that clear policy- and scientific communication to the population, as well as the encouragement of participation in the governing process, is crucial to fight future waves of populism and anti-intellectualism.


Lockdown and The Fight for Our Data


The story of the coronavirus is not only the story of populism but also the story of our data. Due to this pandemic, many people around the world have shared the same experience of working from home via Google Meetings and Zoom. Little do these users know that these meeting apps are collecting their data without their consent.


2020 has been a year where there has been so much pressure on citizens’ right to data. The release of the Netflix drama-documentary The Social Dilemma has raised questions about the ethics of the business models of big-tech companies such as Google, Facebook, Apple, and Amazon. It is comforting to know that the U.S. government has started dealing with these U.S.-based companies by filing federal antitrust lawsuits against them. But the fight for our data is still an unfinished business. And we must take this fight with us into 2021.


Climate Disasters: Can You Hear The Forests Burn?


On 1st January 2020, Australian forests were on fire. Such fire was so intense it burned down houses, it murdered lives — animals and humans alike — without discrimination. One could see its smoke from space, forming thunderstorms, blocking daylight and causing what Australians called the “Black Summer”. Then, on 2nd August 2020, the world witnessed another ferocious forest fire in California, United States. It destroyed 20,000 hectares of national forest and destroyed one house.


These forest fires are without any doubts the consequence of climate change. Yet as the consequence of climate change becomes more and more visible, so does the strength of the waves of anti-intellectualism. Climate change denial is making the fight against climate disasters harder than ever.


However, the future of the fight against climate change seems promising. For the first time, the U.S. President-Elect Joe Biden assures the establishment of a cabinet-post focusing purely on climate change by nominating Former Secretary of State John Kerry to be the Special Presidential Envoy for Climate Change. Mr. Biden also promises that the U.S. will rejoin the Paris Accords. In addition, the European Union and China pledge to be carbon-neutral by respectively 2050 and 2060.


Women’s Strikes, LGBTQ Rights, and Black Lives Matter: Movements Don’t Stand Alone


Currently, the European Union has to contend with Poland and Hungary. Hungary is sliding into a dictatorship by constantly attacking its judicial independence and Poland is doing the same. It also attacks LGBT rights and Polish women’s right to abortion. Consequently, the Polish LGBT community and women have protested, demanding their basic rights and dignity. The Polish ‘Women’s Strike’ movement, hopefully, can end the twisted fantasy of the misogynist and homophobic old white men in the Law and Justice party. But these movements don’t stand alone, at least this year.


Across the Atlantic Ocean, we have the Black Lives Matter movement. We see people trying to shake the racist foundation of the United States. They, too, are demanding their basic rights and dignity. For that, we never forget their names: George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbey, Tony McDade, Dion Johnson, and many more.


Farewell, 2020 —


2020 was surely a gloomy year. In addition to the previous stories, we also see the forever departures of the feminist icon Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the Black Panther actor Chadwick Boseman, the legendary Argentinian soccer player Diego Maradona, the courageous Lucile Bridges, and the conscience of the U.S. Congress John Lewis.

However, the year is not without its success. The United States has elected Joe Biden as the 47th President whose nominated cabinet shall be the most diverse in U.S. history, including the first female African and South Asian Vice President and nominate first openly gay cabinet member. Such joy also extends to New Zealand with the successful reelection of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, whose current cabinet is also extremely diverse with the first Maori-descended Minister of Foreign Affairs. Moreover, Argentina made Latin American history by legalizing abortion; finally giving her women the right of bodily autonomy, the right to make a choice. And the world knows that Harry Styles can rock a dress!


Indeed the problems seem overwhelming but the world leaders are becoming younger and more diverse. And so we have the right to hope that the future can be promising. At least with all that happened this year, we owe it to ourselves to be optimistic about whatever may come.


Farewell, 2020 — and Happy New Year!



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