In the time of pandemic | Issue 17 | 2020
In 2020, we asked writers in Perth, London and California to address the impossible question of what will happen after this. It's fair to say they struggled.
After a year that started with half of the country on fire, then floods, then a global pandemic forcing everybody home and the cancellation of life as we know it, and now what seems to the outsider a period of great civil unrest in the USA that inspired #BLM protests on the streets the world over, my fourteen-year-old daughter asked me if, in future, children will study the year 2020 at school. My answer to that was you could do a master’s degree on 2020 and not get past the month of May.
What will happen next is a genuine mystery. Will it be, as one meme suggested, a giant duck emerging from the ocean that proceeds to stomp us all to death? That won’t stop me going to the beach next summer. While the risk of being stood on by a giant duck may be greater at the beach, it is about the safest place from the bushfires that will inevitably return later this year. I’ll take my chances with the duck.
It’s a simple question, but never in my memory has it been a harder one. In recent times, much of our world had become sclerotic, impermeable to real change, or so it seemed. But in the face of pandemic, social unrest, and economic turmoil, we have shown remarkable resilience. As difficult as 2020 has been so far, this resilience makes me (mostly) optimistic about the future. The shock of Covid-19 will give way to a new normal, as the virus continues to affect how we work, play, socialize, and interact. When we are finally rid of the pandemic, many of us will be hesitant to resume handshakes and physical contact, go mask-less, or otherwise reduce our social distance. While this, too, shall pass, it may take a generation. Black lives will continue to suffer unjustly, but less so. America will finally and honestly begin to confront the racism and privilege that has pervaded our society since its founding, and start to hold our people and institutions accountable for failing to meet our ideals of equal protection, due process, and liberty for all.
Politics—that’s the one thing I am not optimistic about. It has become more polarized, with no end in sight. Politicians continue to avoid opportunities to collaborate. They look only to ‘win’ at the expense of the other side. Maybe the turmoil of 2020 will be the spur to a new approach, but it seems like positions are too entrenched.
The world has changed: let’s hope for the better.
First published in RE: issue 17 (2020)
© Norton Rose Fulbright LLP 2021