Breakfast With Bwana
By Anil Madan
As 2019 rolled into 2020, much of East Africa and South Asia feared the world’s most deadly pest. No, it wasn’t the coronavirus. It was the desert locusts swarming and wreaking havoc. Crops were lost, food supplies were lost. Hope was lost.
2020 – The Worst Year Ever. Photo – viralatclick.com
Hong Kongers feared a virus of a different kind, a virus of oppression. And the Chinese Communist Party delivered. Democracy was lost. Freedom was lost.
Could 2020 get any worse? March in the northeastern U.S. brings the promise of spring as St. Patrick’s Day arrives with its celebratory parades and drinking with friends, to be followed by College basketball’s March Madness tournament, and then we have Easter and the Master’s tournament, o holy conjunction.
This time, the Chinese Communist Party ensured that things would get worse as it trumped Schistocerca gregaria (the desert locust), and even outdid its localized repression in Hong Kong, by unleashing Covid-19 on the world. WHO knew? Or did W.H.O. know?
With reassurances that self-isolation and social distancing would buy us time and control the spread, those in charge — I hesitate to use the word “leaders” — shut us down, and to varying degrees, shut down restaurants, bars, movies, gyms, airports, subways, trains, indeed pretty much all travel, sports, casinos. It seemed life was lost.
So St Paddy’s Day was lost, colleges decided that having March Madness would be insane. Basketball was lost in this madness. The Easter Bunny was lost down a rabbit hole, the Masters was lost down a golf hole, spring itself was lost in a black hole. Hope was lost, logic lost, even despair a losing proposition. Camaraderie lost, companionship lost, meetings separated by Zoom calls, families brought closer by telephone calls but contact lost.
A world turned topsy-turvy. An economy in a slide, unemployment, hunger, homes lost. But then a marvel overtook events. New leadership sprung in the economy as, mirabile dictu, the Internet, e-commerce, streaming videos, and working remotely take hold. A two-tier stock market with some stocks crushed and some soaring.
Meanwhile, leaders have lost their way and leadership is lost as if all the oxygen has been sucked out of those in charge. Then oxygen was then literally sucked out of George Floyd. A Black man dies with a policeman’s knee symbolically on his neck. Ruth Bader Ginsburg (former Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States) was lost. She is associated with these words: “I ask no favour for my sex. All I ask of our brethren is that they take their feet off our necks.” The grim reality of the oppression of women did not provoke those words from RBG; they were said by the aptly named Sarah Moore Grimké. But Floyd’s death unleashed something. Perhaps it was the pent up sense of injustice that Trump had sparked. Perhaps it was just the boredom and lack of anything to do during the lockdowns that spurred the protestors on. We shall find out in due course.
2020 saw Elon Musk’s ascent and the ascent of his rocket-powered space vehicle that ferried astronauts to the ISS. China landed an aircraft on the far side of the moon. We learned that there is no exclusivity of space control. If ever there was, it has been lost. We learned that technology has been lost. Science is not exclusive. Knowledge is not the province of any one nation. That which is not protected is lost.
For Trump and McConnell, there was a Supreme Court vacancy, a nomination, and a confirmation won. For McConnell, a Senatorial election won. Six more years of his devious visage hanging over the Senate bodes ill for America. But the issue is not decided as yet. The runoff elections in Georgia may swing the Senate to the Democrats. One is left wondering if the Democrats win, will the country have lost yet again?
For Trump, an election was lost in all but his mind. Ah, his mind. It still does not comprehend that he lost. It seems he has lost his mind.
For America, a possible new course but with an old hand at the helm perhaps ready to return to familiar shallows. Alas, the shallows have not been lost. For children’s education, time lost.
Meanwhile, oppression reigns around the world. Regions of conflict remain regions of conflict. There is hope for peace in the Middle East, or at least of politics making strange Bedouin fellows of the Israelis and Arabs.
In America England, Europe, India, and beyond, hospitals overwhelmed, and cities under siege by an unseen enemy, an enemy that attacked as far as the eye could see and indeed beyond where the eye could see. There were the Trump supporters who went into denial. This was no pandemic, they declared, merely the flu, the Wu Flu or Kung Flu as the President said. They eschewed masks and flocked to rallies from which spread and surge were bound to follow. But they hoarded toilet paper. Wiping away their own excrement is never the solution to wiping away their stupidity.
Then the Summer was lost, the Fall fell by the wayside — lost, Halloween a ghostly non-event was lost, Thanksgiving was lost. Life itself was lost here and there and here and there some 317,000 times so far in the U.S. and almost 1.7 million around the world.
Behold! A vaccine is at hand. Nay two vaccines. May we get one on the left hand and one on the right hand.
As the Winter Solstice dawns, and the days ahead promise to get longer, the light trumping the shadows, perhaps in this winter of our discontent, all is not lost.
* Published in print edition on 22 December 2020
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