2020 sucked for many people. For many, too—though sadly at least 2 million fewer than might have been the case, absent the pandemic—the first half of 2021 will also be difficult. Beyond that simple assertion, I’m wary of making predictions.
This time last year I wrote a couple of longish posts, a look back, 2010-2019: A Decade in Review, and a look forward, The Third Decade of the 21st Century. That latter was basically a detailed explanation of why I wasn’t going to make any predictions:
I am pitifully crap at predicting the future. The most seriously I’ve ever tried was writing Slow River in 1993 (published 1995). Oh, I did get some things right: Bioremediation and the need for it (though today we’re doing much, much less than we could, and we need it much, much more than we did). Data ransom. An increasing divide between rich and poor. Charity as fashion. Older people feeling like digital immigrants and strangers in their own culture. But I completely missed social media, the rise of online commerce, and the ubiquity of asomatic (extrasomatic?) connectedness, for good and ill.
So the only thing I’m reasonably sure about in terms of prognostication is that in two weeks we’ll be writing ‘2020’ on our cheques. Except, oh wait, we mostly don’t write cheques anymore. And maybe some deadly pandemic, unexpected asteroid, or nuclear holocaust—or just someone careless tripping the national grid leading to a cascade of devastating effects—could render this notion of money, or even the people who might need it, obsolete.
I chose those three disasters for the simple reason that they’re no-brainers—they’re always true—and our world is so complex and interdependent that it could easily end any time, even without anyone doing anything idiotic or malicious. And in fact, there was (and still is) a deadly pandemic; there was at least one unexpected asteroid; and the Russian hacking and insertion could easily have triggered a civilisation-ending collapse of our infrastructure if Putin had felt like pushing the button and turning business-as-usual espionage into an attack. And money—well, money is still with us, but cash has become vanishingly scarce for those lucky enough to still have credit. But here’s the thing: the prediction I missed the first time—the extrasomatic communication? It saved my sanity (and that of many others, I think) and I just, well, I didn’t expect to ever be grateful for Zoom (and Google Meet, and Skype, and FaceTime).
And here’s the other thing: in 2020 the world didn’t end.
But the best thing of all? I believe the world in 2021 is slightly less likely to end than it was in 2020. So…Yay?
Ah, screw it! Definitely Yay!! As someone on Instagram pointed out a couple of weeks ago, 1.20.21 is the world’s most anticipated palindrome. In less than four weeks we’ll have grownups in charge again (at least here in the US; the UK, well, I feel for you extremely—hang in there). It’ll take a long time to even begin to redress the harm Trump and his cohorts have inflicted on the world, but I think a Biden/Harris administration will make a good start. Or they’ll try. Obviously they will have to find their way past many obstacles, the rocks in the road like Mitch McConnell, but not being motivated by greed or malice will make many more good things at least imaginable.
So this year I’m just going to cross my fingers and say only that I sincerely hope that:
- the Covid vaccine works
- the Biden/Harris administration miraculously finds some way around the partisan gridlock that’s plagued US politics for the last 20 years.
1. Covid. To work, the vaccine must not only be effective at the biological level but also have wide take-up. And by wide I mean all the anti-vaxxers and the vaccine-hesitant get over themselves—and if you believe the polls they are beginning to—and that rich countries do the right thing and fund the production, transport, and administration of vaccination for populations that might not be able to afford it. Assuming this happens, we then need immunity to last a few years. And after that we need the virus not to mutate in ways that make it either a) more deadly or b) able to evade vaccine-induced immune response. Further, we then need the population of the world to keep wearing masks and following social distancing precautions for a while until we have true herd immunity. (But, again, the polls are hopeful on this point.) So how likely is all this? I don’t know. My hope is that it’ll happen, and by this time next year the pandemic will be largely in the rear-view mirror. But I am by no means certain.
2. Biden/Harris. What would help the most for the incoming administration would be for Georgia to elect two Democratic senators. Will this happen? I doubt it. On this I would love to be wrong. But even if I am wrong, that leaves razor-thin margins in both chambers and therefore the potential for disappointment when it comes to sweeping change. It could bode well, though, for infrastructure projects, which this country desperately needs—and would be good for employment and therefore the economy. In terms of social justice? I don’t know. the White House will no longer emit malicious Executive Orders in an endless stream designed to humiliate entire populations and/or enrich the already-rich and powerful—so, hey, there’s one improvement we can rely on. Given the current conservative majority on the Supreme Court I have deep concerns about the future of certain protections—for queer folk, trans folk, women, BIPOC, disabled folk. A 6-3 majority could lead to all kinds of dismantlement of rights some of us are only just beginning to take for granted and others thought they might have a hope of seeing soon. Obviously, a Biden administration could then encourage Congress to pass actual federal laws to take the place of previous legal precedent—but as soon as you drag religious freedom into the mix things get very, very tricky. As I’m fairly sure SCOTUS will be doing that a few times in the coming year, buckle up.
Beyond these two things I will only say, again, that I’m super crap at making predictions.
The only things I’m very sure of—because they are in my control—are that Kelley and I will be doing our best to love each other and the world, to take joy as and when we find it, and to create and share joy as and when we can. May 2021 be kind to us all.