There's a word missing there, of course: you spotted it by its absence. We've come to spot so much by its absence in the year gone by. So much. Remember when we celebrated birthdays by eating cake someone had just blown on? Good times. Remember when you could get in your car and drive, and wherever you went there'd be a place where you could relieve the urges of nature? It might have been dirty -- dirty public restrooms are just one of the signs of a culture in decline -- but at least it was open. A way back in March, it was collectively decided by "our betters" that we should sacrifice hundreds of thousands of beloved local institutions, but we should in no way impede Walmart's ability to make money. More recently, we've enacted sweeping travel bans that only apply to those of us who are not politicians. Is there any wonder people are losing faith in the system?
Just as Christmas 2020 felt less like Christmas than any Christmas I can recall, New Year's 2021 didn't feel like any kind of turning of the page. We're still locked in this dreary existence, deprived of human touch, social creatures stuck on antisocial media platforms. Even the introverts like me are feeling the strain...and wilting under it. I keep finding reserves of energy I didn't know I had, enough energy to push on another month, but I'm tired. So tired.
As a society, we've resided at the very haughtiest height of privilege. All but the poorest of us have grown used to and reliant upon conditions that historically only obtained for royalty and nobility. Accordingly, many of us have lost the ability to pull together in the face of adversity. While our health care workers burn out all around us, we engage in behaviours guaranteed to sicken and kill people we claim to love. Instead of caring for our fellow humans, we've turned on each other. The most basic prophylactic measures have been politicized...not just in the United States. We have a cadre of Canadians every bit as insistent on their "rights" and ignorant of the very concept of responsibility.
This is the world we find ourselves in as 2021 dawns. Let me rephrase that: this is the world we've created. Convinced of our invincibility, we have demonstrated again and again a sneering contempt for reality. The thing about reality: it doesn't care whether you "believe in" it or not.
As we await Pfizer's attempt to raise society from the dead the way it has raised so many dead penises, a word of caution that I haven't been able to scrub from my mind:
The corporate media here in the US, at least, has been insisting at the top of its electronic lungs that “the vaccine” (there are of course several of them) is safe and effective. The stark truth is that nobody knows. It takes one to two years of repeated tests and long-term assessments to figure out if a vaccine is safe and effective, and the Pfizer vaccine—the first one approved in the US and Britain—got a total of eight weeks of hurried testing before it was approved for sale. It’s quite common for problems with pharmaceuticals—even horrific problems—to take months or years to surface, and the Pfizer and Moderna products belong to a type of vaccine—mRNA vaccines—that have never before been successfully used on human subjects, so no one anywhere knows what will happen when millions of people take them.
One thing that interests me is the shrill tone of the claims being made by the media about the supposed safety and efficacy of the vaccines...For some years now, the comfortable classes in today’s America have lost track of the fact that control over the public narrative does not equal control over the facts underlying the narrative...Convince yourself that something is true, and the universe has to play along: that’s the mentality of a frighteningly large share of the privileged in America these days. --Greer
I am the farthest thing from an antivaxxer or science denier and those paragraphs above give me pause. Maybe the vaccines are perfectly safe -- surely the medical establishment wouldn't gamble its own credibility so brashly and rashly? -- but it's that focus on the media narrative that really concerns me.
The overwhelming drive is to return to "normal", as if "normal" is in any way desirable for anyone in the middle or working classes. We rent our bodies and our minds for a pittance so that the rich can enrich themselves while we squabble over the scraps they deign to throw us. We are not human beings but consumers, and we are never to forget this: our sacred duty to the Great God Lucre (and Dollar is His Profit) is to buy, buy, buy, hallelujah, amen. We called grocery workers heroes in March, and now they've been relegated to their usual status: oh, look, Karen, a store directory monkey. Ask it where the ricotta is, would you?
Historically, pandemics have acted on societies the way forest fires act in nature. They devastate, but they also cleanse. This one will have to become a good deal more deadly to overcome what seems to be an innate need to dirty the only nest we'll ever know. That may yet happen: the new variant of Covid is seventy percent more transmissible. Further mutations are unpredictable, and for some reason there's widespread rebellion at the very idea that we can not predict the future.
They say depressives see the world as it is rather than as they would like it to be. My idealism has always clashed with my depressive nature and right now the depression is winning. I hope that I'm wrong: that we will arise from the pandemic prepared to care for the least of us, the way civilized societies do (that is, in fact, the definition). I hope that we can learn to come together rather than fall, apart. I hope that love will prevail and that we stop attacking each other as the jar of the world shakes around us, rather than joining together and attacking the forces shaking that jar.
I hope. But I doubt.
New Year, everyone. 2021, a new decade. May it treat you as well as you treat it.