As we open the new year, beaming with the usual blind optimism; perhaps more blindly than ever, as though the shutters have yet to be pulled from our eyes, it is clear we are living on the precipice of an extraordinary time of social and political change.
That is something that fills me with a sickening feeling of dread.
Whilst many of us have spent the year glued to our phones and living the digital reality, we all at times have experienced a spasm of information overload and likely switched off from time to time, or even had a complete shutdown. If lockdowns and COVID-19 restrictions were not enough, the political pendulum has indeed swung in a new direction.
Many of us are struggling to make sense of it all.
From Trump’s election squabbles to Australia butting heads with China, or as microscopic as statue toppling in the UK. 2020 was an incredible ‘loss of face’ for the west; those feelings of helplessness, exacerbated by the quarantines and enormous job losses – it is difficult not to feel undercut & slight feeling of humiliation.
Last year was the year in which China took their slice of the cake, ate it, made a new one and ate that too.
Simultaneously, we saw the American political capitulation – a nation without a purpose. New president, more division is all the eye can see thus far.
Unfortunately, painkillers cannot cure cancer…
Brexit is done but the UK too, much like their Atlantic counterpart, is a nation domestically splintering.
Hong Kong is a closed case but democracy has been lost.
A radio silence from the NATO gang has seen Australia bullied by the Chinese.
Furthermore, the very real institutional threat from cultural Marxism is wreaking havoc on our ability to think freely, truthfully and independently here in the west; disagreement is met with disagreement and the chapter then abruptly ends.
To make matters even more complicated, the EU and China recently signed a comprehensive trade deal which could be viewed as a significant wedge towards US-China relations and moreso symbolise the loss of identity and direction in the west.
Call me hyperbolic but in a year of economic and social misery in the west, the world watched as China rehashed scenes from 1930’s Germany in Xinjiang, plundered Africa with colonial style investment deals and increased its trade surplus by 20%.
Not bad for a global pandemic, right?
The answers are not clear but there is something seriously rotten in western politics right now, at a time where the ideals of the enlightenment are facing fire, we choose to burn ourselves – talk about cutting your nose off to spike your face.
On a more solemn note, the talented Johnny Nash sung the classic “I can see clearly now”, a jovial song, full of optimism and hope.
Not only did he forget 2020 was round the corner but I bet your bottom dollar, or pound, or Turkish Lira, or even Indian Rupee, that he would not be singing that now.
We must stay true to our ideals of liberty, free speech and free expression without turning the gun on ourselves and our neighbours. It is the Chinese government, to make the clear distinction, who are not towing the international line anymore, they want centre stage… their rules, their game.
I do not think the west is perfect, but the alternative is not in the world of Johnny Nash; we have grown too complacent with our values and cheapened their meaning to fruitless Instagram posts as opposed to authentic and actionable debates.
When the pandemic is over, business as usual will be a phrase of the past; by all means be optimistic but expect a bumpy ride in 2021.