Stephanie Zacharek, a film critic for Time magazine, wrote in its feature article that summarizes 2020, which it titled “The Worst Year Ever”: “If 2020 were a dystopian movie, you’d probably turn it off after 20 minutes. This year wasn’t doomily thrilling, like a fictional apocalypse. It was, in addition to being wrought with pain, maddeningly mundane, the routine of the everyday turned against us.” Moreover, “Our most debilitating threat this year,” she adds, “was a sense of helplessness,” and “Not since the spread of fascism in the 1930s … have we been faced with so many abnormal events.”
With all due respect to the distinguished film critic, I wholly disagree. There has been nothing abnormal about this year, since there is nothing abnormal about this pandemic. On the contrary, up until this year, we have been leading a maddening, abnormal way of life, and the “restraining order” we got from the virus has reinstated normality on Planet Earth. For the first time in more than a century, life functioned normally!
We have been pushing nature’s limits to the brink of snapping, and the virus is only the mildest way it could conjure up to make us stop before we blow ourselves up along with the rest of the planet. Nature could not be gentler with us than with Covid-19.
Besides, how can any sensible person say about forest fires, hurricanes, a pandemic, and earthquakes that they are abnormal? How can natural phenomena be abnormal? Only a warped perspective can view natural phenomena as uncanny and the artificial as normal. Not only that, for a distinguished magazine like Time to declare in its feature piece for 2020 that nature is, well, unnatural, is a testimony to our miscomprehension of the world we live in. If anything is to be regretted about this year, it is our folly.
The people at Time clearly have no clue about their role as a means of communication, about the role of the media. Instead of using their magazine for educational purposes, to teach people where we are and where we’re going, they’re using it to circulate eloquent inanity.
2020 is the best year ever! It is the first time when nature has shown us, in plain view, how it responds to the distortions we install in its system. It tells us we have crossed the line and if we continue on the road we’re going, we will extinguish ourselves. Mother Nature is doing all she can to save her ungrateful children, and we whine like spoiled brats that she isn’t giving us the candy we want.
When you don’t know what you’re doing, stick your hands deep in your pockets and keep them there until you are smarter. We have been doing the exact opposite: switching every knob and pressing every button we could find in order to somehow squeeze more fun out of nature. It is only a miracle we have survived this far. The coronavirus saved our lives by forcing us to go home and limit our abuse of our only home. It is clearly a blessing, yet foolish we curse her on the front page of one of our most acclaimed publications.
The media is our number one educational tool. We should use it to learn about ourselves and our surroundings, not to complain about nature’s teaching but to explain how we should work within the ecosystem that is our universe. It is a closed system, and any wrongdoing bears its consequences. We may not feel it right away, but it is only because we are insensitive to our surroundings and oblivious to our interconnections. If we were slightly more aware of our interdependence, we would see the negative impact of our misdeeds straight away, and wouldn’t think that when those offenses take their toll on us, it is not our fault. Because not only is it our doing that we’ve had such an “eventful” year, it is nobody else’s.
If we do not learn the lesson that Covid-19 has taught us in 2020, 2021 will teach us the same lesson even more painfully. It is not for nature’s meanness, but for our denseness. I feel sorry for Mother Nature; it is not easy rearing such obstinate children. At the same time, I’m grateful that she always chooses the least painful means to teach us what she must, and that she has finally chosen to reveal to us her ways, so we can study them and become grownups in our own world, too.