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It was good while it lasted

2020 was the year that we wished would end soon. When it ended, we felt it was not good while it lasted. On second thought, however, we realized there were lessons learned during that year. They were good and lasting lessons.

While we became aware only of the virus toward the end of February, it was during the lockdown that we turned deathly conscious of the upheaval in our societies.

So, the question is: was 2020 ever good?

There were lessons learned, many of those still being known up to now.

For the first time, we recognize the power of the new technologies. Social media became the hub of communications for all of us years and years back. When finally we were separated not so much by the dreaded disease but by our fear of it, we began to look at the links possible only with the technologies of the Internet, the computer and related technologies. Connecting with this new media did not only demand skills but a whole package of attitude and forward-looking behavior.

There was no looking back.

Soon, we found ourselves and our relationships with others being mediated by technologies. This consciousness was followed by the first rule of the lockdown: social distancing. When this phrase was released, sociologists and those who knew their social sciences bristled at the use of that term. The term was too close to the concept of “social distance,” which is the distance created by class, ethnicity, religion and other different characters. For Bourdieu, social distance is ruled by possession of capital. Money did separate the haves from the have-nots, to put it bluntly and with much vulgarity.

“We have been distant from each other for a long time,” this was the claim of many. But health officials really mean physical distancing, which again, is vastly removed from social distancing. The intensity of the situation requiring distance from each other was so great that if you check online the sociological interpretation has been supplanted by the health protocol re-interpretation.

Six feet from each other was the rule. This sounded morbid because we knew where the six-foot rule also mattered – in grave-digging.

An infection of a particular kind and death became the current tandem. Avoidance turned into a principle.

The Pandemic brought about strange contraptions. First, there was the mask, which was soon followed by the shield. For months, a new law took over, the law of economics. Profit was more important than prevention because masks were priced prohibitively. The shield was even pricier until it became common knowledge how it could be manufactured easily by home industries.

Students and teachers after directionless discussions agreed to return to classes. Academic engagement was to be conducted online. The principled – or those humbled and truthful by and to their lack of knowledge - teachers admitted the difficulties of the dumb notion of “new normal.” The pretentious ones, the type organically produced by the academe, sallied forth with their new requirement and neo-rigidities.

Webinars proliferated. Experts both real and pseudo also proliferated. Vetting of credentials became difficult. Everyone was overnight an expert in this and that – Political Science in the new normal, Philosophy in the New Normal, Physical Education without physicality, Biology without the Bio, etc.

Ten months or so into 2020, the talk of a vaccine became real.

By Christmas, the wisdom of the magi, it appeared, would never reach our leaders. The government would have the monopoly of the vaccine. The mouthpiece of the government said we are in no position to choose. He did not say beggars cannot choose because that would have been the appropriate figure of speech in the face of all this.

Now, we are talking of efficacy and effectivity. If we are to believe the press releases, the vaccine coming our way has an efficacy of 50 percent. Other countries are batting for 90, 94, and 95 percent. But we are not other countries.

Now, we are talking of mass vaccination. Last year, personalities connected to the government health programs have demonized vaccination.

Now, the government is out to promote vaccination. But if you were listening, the news for mass vaccination is accompanied with the instruction that people who do not like to be vaccinated can sign a waiver.

Last year, the vaccine was our only hope. Now, the vaccine is our present despair and doubt.

2020 is gone and 2021 is here. More than ever, we continue to shine not with brilliance but with a glaring lack of it. We are, in other words, locked down in the stillness of ignorance.

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