by Omer Selim Sher in Ottawa
The year 2020 ended differently than any other in recent memory. Individuals, families, countries, and the world has borne the brunt of the Covid-19 pandemic in just the outgoing year, including the deaths of nearly 2 million people worldwide. On one hand, the discovery and application of the vaccine is a beacon of hope; on the other hand, the new strain of the virus makes human civilization more worried.
2021 has started differently in that sense, but how different will the world be? How much has changed in 2020?
Who would have thought 2020 would be like this? Did we ever think of wearing a ‘#mask,’ or are we now going to be comfortable in public places without a mask? Did we ever use the words’ #social_distancing’ or know that we needed to ‘sanitize’ our hands for 20 seconds to make them germ-free? Instead of bumper stickers advocating ‘Have you hugged your loved ones today,’ new warnings emerged,’Do no hug your loved ones.’ We had to stay in our ‘bubble’! Bubble?? And you thought ‘#Quarantine’ was only for plants and animals? We started living with partial complete curfew with new new term ‘#Lockdown’ -Saty home concept. ’#Zoom’ meetings and online classes became the ‘#New Normal’ way to do business and study, and we just learned to adapt to the ‘New Normal.’
The Coronavirus pandemic changed Facebook. People started to share photos of plants and flowers instead of lunches and dinner parties. Many took to a hobby. I started gardening and cooking, writing. I took writing for an online newspaper Newsnextbd.com. When ‘Memories’ on Facebook floated up, it seemed like it happened in another lifetime.
The year was a year of ‘love and loss,’ tragic, heartbreaking, and untimely losses of loved ones, a year of failed plans. A year of dark and gloom. A year that made me realize more than ever not to ever take anything for granted. We lost so many dear ones and so many personalities in the country and the world. 1.8 million people died of COvid 19 in the world. The phrase ‘Man proposes God disposes of’indeed revealed its meaning. A year of discovering our ‘true colors’ and being comfortable with our new looks of grey hair, long hair, mustache and beard, un-manicured nails, and toes. A year that revealed the horror in some as they shamed COVID-19 positives and, at the same time, the beauty in others as they cared for them. It brought out the kindness and humility, the desire to help others, with food & provisions, with masks, with PPE suits and face shields, and with plasma.
Countries around the world that seemed to be able to cope with any crisis were shocked when their health systems collapsed in February-March when the epidemic began to spread worldwide, and there were hopes that education would change. The consideration of public health would prevail, and it was possible to build a new human world.
It was evident that there are both positive and negative aspects of technology and that its use can keep us free from danger. Again, the fear that it could limit the rights of citizens was also earnestly expressed.
Western countries’ success in developing and distributing the COVID-19 vaccine has prevented the virus from becoming a geopolitical tool for China. But vaccination is not or will remain above politics. On the contrary, there is already an outbreak of ‘vaccine nationalism.’Protecting or restoring the influence of western countries is also a matter of geopolitics. Before the vaccine’s invention, we saw the division — the rich countries have already bought the vaccines, the middle-income countries have to wait or secure vaccinations in exchange for something. Developing countries rely on the help of international organizations and the availability of vaccines.
When the time comes for mass vaccination in 2021, this division will become even more vivid, implying that the pandemic has not changed the world’s power structure.
In sum, geopolitics did not change much in 2020, nor did COVID-19 viruses cause significantinternational relations changes. The world economy is in crisis but trying to turn around.The plight of the oppressed people of the society will not change as the world economy turns around.The consideration of public health would prevail, and it was possible to build a new human world.
It was also a year of hope and new beginnings as we witnessed the significant moment of discovery of the COVID-19 vaccine in record time. It was a year like never before in our lifetime. Welcoming 2021, I am humbled by the kindness and beauty of this universe and pray that the New Year brings in health, happiness, and peace on earth. Happy New Year, everyone! Let’s build a “moral society” for Bangladesh in 2021.
Omer Selim Sher is a retired Professor of Economics at Algonquin College, Ottawa, Canada, and a researcher on South Asian politics.