Good riddance, 2021!

December 29, 2021 10:01
Photo: Reuters

With all due respect, this has been another annus horribilis. Arguably a year that is – at its core – far worse as compared with even 2020.

The COVID-19 pandemic persisted. More have perished this year as compared with the year prior – with waves of variants, from the alpha, delta, to, now, the omicron variants, storming countries left, right, and center. Less developed economies have floundered under the grave resource inequalities and disparities undergirding the global vaccine and medical regime. More developed economies have found themselves the epicenters of outbreaks of selfishness and excessive individualism – arguably – as individuals find themselves reluctant to undertake vital and basic precautions, such as getting the widely available jab, in order to combat the global epidemic. The medical crisis has no end in sight, and the human costs are very much real, pressing, and poignantly lingering. As of writing, over 5.38 million individuals have perished under COVID-19 – it goes without saying, but the costs of this pandemic have been asymmetrically and unduly imposed mostly upon those who can neither speak, nor resist: the global poor, purged of possibilities and alternatives.

We’re witnessing unprecedented tensions between America and China. From concerns over China’s domestic governance and economy, to allegations that the US has ostensibly been involved in sowing interference and unrest abroad, to the wide-ranging quibbles and disagreements over the economic, political, and military trajectories for the two countries, one fact is clear: 2021 hasn’t been the greatest year for bilateral relations, even notwithstanding Biden and Xi’s attempts to reset the relationship in the aftermath of Biden’s historic victory over the previously reigning Orange Buffoon. The United States and China may not be destined for war, but ‘tis ever so likely that the two states may find themselves in a state of perpetual attrition, that would only undercut the credibility and leadership capital of both states. We could well be moving from a G-1 world to a G-0 world – and it is that eventuality, I suggest, that we ought to fear, arguably more than a world “ruled by China”.

Domestically and internationally, wealth and income inequalities have come to a pretty terrifying head. China’s answer was to massively crack down upon Big Tech and other oligarchs, with the aims of bringing them into the fold of the state economy – or, alternatively, curbing the influences of those who are impediments to the pace and trajectory of reform as envisioned by the “above”. America’s answer, on the other hand, was to appeal to the kindness of strangers as different states across different provinces strived very hard to reign in Big Tech firms. How we dealt with tech – and how we shall continue to deal with tech – clearly does matter. Could this be viewed as merely a harbinger of broader structural and industry-level transformations? Or should the touted “transformative innovation” induced by the surge of cybercurrency, the perseverance of the crop of tech-friendly companies and start-ups, and the advent of the meta-verse be treated as a mere inconvenience that could be tolerated and internalised as calculable risks, given the extensive reforms that have already gone down? Only time could tell.

As the precipice of the new year approaches, there’s oft the temptation to embrace the wishful adage: that the new year will allow us to reset, to “move on” from the turmoil of the prior year. Much of this, alas, remains wishful and illusory at its core: there exists no empirical reason for us to think that 2022 would be any different. Yet, for the sake of practical motivation and in promulgating some semblance of positive change for the better, it is all the more crucial that we subscribe to this narrative – if not for keeping the momentum (or reviving it) of social progress, then for keeping ourselves sanguine and prepared amidst these trying times. Good riddance, 2021, and don’t ever come back! Hit the road, please.

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Editor-in-Chief, Oxford Political Review