How Can We Step Out Of 2020’s Dark Shadow?

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It’s neither bold nor new to admit that this year, 2020, has been a nightmarish fever dream that we’d all love to wake up from. Alas, I regret to inform you that this isn’t a dream: you are awake, reading the latest copy of The Indiependent, maybe wondering how this year could get any worse and OH MY GOD WHAT COULD 2021 HAVE IN STORE? Well, yes this has been a dumpster fire of a year, but this doesn’t mean we should just try to forget about it. It would be all too easy to live in denial, to treat this year like it never even happened and try to move on blindly hoping that next year will be different – but I’m here to say that nothing could be more detrimental for the future than not learning from the events of 2020.

First and foremost: we must not allow ourselves to forget the injustices millions have faced all over the globe over the course of this year. At the time of writing, the Conservative party have voted against funding free school meals for children during periods of holiday and half terms; what sort of message does this send to the people of the UK? The message I see would read as such, “We’d rather spend our money on FAR MORE IMPORTANT PROJECTS that would better serve the people! Take repainting a plane for £900,000, or spending £100 million on a pointless Brexit campaign!” There are children starving in this country, but no sorry we can’t afford it because the Prime Minister has more important plans ahead of putting food in the mouths of this country’s next generation. We, the people, have had to take matters into our own hands and cause outrage wherever we see injustice. Another great example of us taking matters into our own hands was calling out the shocking pay rise MPs were due to receive. This pay rise has since been frozen.

If we look further into the reactions against injustice around the globe, it’s a sad mix of kind of hopeful, but still depressing. Black Lives Matter protests enveloped the world following the killing of George Floyd, another Black man in a terrifyingly long line of other Black men, women and children. Phones captured his death under the knee of a police officer, surrounded by other members of the force standing by and watching.

The world saw Derek Chauvin murder a man just going about his day, but with the way the American political system works, this won’t change until more young people start voting for change. We’ve seen how intelligent these people are following the March for Our Lives demonstration, created by the survivors of the Parkland shooting. We have more power than we give each other credit for.

There have been a disgusting number of situations this year where governments all over the world have been guilty of oppressing the people they swore to protect. The #EndSARS movement was born from government forces massacring peaceful protestors in Lagos, Nigeria. Poland placed further restrictions on a women’s right to an abortion, until this was delayed in thanks to nationwide protests. The new Hong Kong Security law lawmakers in Beijing have forced through have tightened the dictatorial grip on the region and, effectively, launched a war against freedom of speech. The news cycle seems to depict one hideous event after another, but is that really a surprise when we look at the history of these nations? Keep the same kind of people in power for too long and there will be a boiling point; if 2020 isn’t that point, I dread to think how much worse it can get.

Secondly: we need to put our energy into dismissing populist politicians. One prime example of this is Jacinda Ardern’s commanding victory in the recent election in New Zealand. Her leadership during the Covid-19 epidemic would be enough to have her win the election, but time and time again she has proved to stand as one of the strongest and most effective politicians in the world. Following the massacre in Christchurch, her swift ban of assault weaponry and compassionate message of unity set her leagues apart from many world leaders – namely the populist ones.

Populism has become far too, for the lack of a better word, ‘popular’ in recent years. The absence of reason, dismissal of hard evidence and instilling of doubt in industry professionals is constricting democracy to the point where it could no longer be possible to hold a debate with anyone. It’s become impossible to debate with someone who won’t take stock of all the facts in front of them. Populists make you doubt everything you thought was once true, they manipulate you with charismatic messages of ‘togetherness’, but simultaneously encourage division between you and ‘the other’. The ignorance of these leaders gets in the way of the truth, preventing many from making sound and well-informed decisions when the time finally comes to place their vote. Leaders like Trump, Bolsonaro, and Erdogan have for too long exploited the people of their nation to pedal lies, and created division to make it harder for their political opposition to try and create some level of unity.

Dominating news cycles and hijacking social media with targeted adverts and suggested posts stokes the fire of hatred by infecting impressionable individuals with the idea that the enemy could be around any and every corner. We saw an example of this in Amazon Prime’s The Boys, where the addiction to the same hateful news and social media cycle, fuelled with populist love for the literal Nazi in disguise, Stormfront.

I go into 2021 hopeful that the people of this beautiful world will stay optimistic that things will get better. There is a whole generation that have had to define their childhood alongside some of the most horrific events in human history. There are changes to be made, but if there is one thing I have learned this year having started seeing a therapist, we also need to credit ourselves on the changes we do create. Sure, none of us are thriving during this pandemic, but we are surviving.

Words by Jacob Fleming


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