2021: Same Old? Or a Fresh Start?

I began writing this story before the New Year, sadly, couldn't complete it — but I’d like to share some of my incomplete pieces too, I feel they really capture the message in my writings. Let me know how you liked this.

As we bid farewell to a rather tumultuous year, there are certain themes I’d always like to keep with me. After all, it’s in the toughest of times when humanity can really have a hard look at themselves and think ‘how far have we come and where do we go from here?’

A year filled with destruction, uncertainty, chaos, fake news, blame and hope — each of us have different stories to tell. Some lucky enough to escape the virus itself but almost no one escaped unscathed. We’ve all been hurt — emotionally and physically. Some spent months alone, some hated being back home, some just wished for some form of normalcy, but all of us prayed. We prayed for a better tomorrow. As I go through what made 2020 what it was for me, I hope you can relate to it and use it to make a better tomorrow.

I’m a second-year economics student, and yes, the pandemic had massive economic impacts, but for once I’ve decided to go further and pen down what I feel shaped each month and week in 2020, a year where we all grappled with multiple individual battles but fought a common enemy.

Uncertainty was brewing right from 2019 with the Australian bushfires, the China-USA tussle and trouble in the middle east. A key element which shaped all these events and consequently my first theme is leadership. For example, Aussie PM Scott Morrison was heavily criticized for his handling of one of the worst bushfires in Australian history. As we go ahead into 2021, leaders need to be looking further ahead, the UN and the world has been raising its voice regarding climate change, but these voices continue to be met with a deafened ear. Leaders need not only be prompt at damage control but also fixing potential problems. Similarly, Trump’s handling of not only the US-China trade war but also his ‘negotiations’ with North Korea and the Black Lives Matter protests and Modi’s handling of India’s months long lockdown has lacked the clear-cut planning, execution and responsibility a leader should possess.

A leader which acts promptly relies on a sound decision-making process, which continues to evolve with time. Jacinda Arden, the woman who dealt with Covid-19 as just another Kiwi, won the peoples mandate. Locking down New Zealand early and speaking directly to her people after relying on expert medical advice showcases that trusting and delegating decision making to specialists and experts pays off. More importantly, when a leader of a country relies on their ability to ‘speak’ to the people instead of posing as an all-encompassing chief, several people wouldn’t lose faith in institutions. In Britain, right from wearing masks to a potential third lockdown, chief medical officers and experts have been urging the government from inception; but what seems to be the lack of authority and determination has led to continuous U-turns in policy.

As we head into 2021 and as this rollercoaster of this year comes to an end, several of us would have realised that it wasn’t our jobs nor our distractions which kept us sane, but rather empathy. All of us experienced a great deal of challenges this past year, from moving our lives to a single room or being away from loved ones, we’ve never felt so connected but disconnected at the same time. At times, understanding that everyone was in the same boat, helped to ease the pain. However, as we move into 2021, people will emerge from 2020 differently. Some will take time to be ‘themselves’ again or mould into a new version of themselves. In my opinion, it’s important we give the other person a bit more space, a bit more room to manoeuvre. May that be our parents, colleagues, partners or best friends. Everyone deserves some extra benefit of doubt. At the same time, as always, we must never give up our pursuit of knowledge and continue to work tirelessly for ourselves and for each other — wherever we are and whichever role we are in.

I wrote this as I tested positive for COVID and just couldn’t pen down my thoughts as clearly as I would want to. 2021 has already given us a glimpse of what lack of unity, leadership and direction could lead to. As we move into February and the vaccination effort speeds up, we’re just holding onto the glimmer hope that we’d be able to be humans again, to live each day like we used to; however, I also hope that as a race we’re able to narrow our differences — debate, engage, discuss and ultimately grow.

Best of luck for the remainder of this year!

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Jatin Punjabi

I’m a 3rd year Economics student @ Warwick University. Trying to write more and write better. Follow for pieces on politics, economics and everyday life.