As 2020 comes to a close, I thought I would make my last post of the year about this eventful and bizarre year. All of us have experienced 2020 in different ways. For me, this year has brought revelations and important moments for learning about the world around me and, equally important, myself.
I have learned how crucial it is for governments to be coordinated and transparent in their messages. Countries like New Zeeland and Senegal (ranked #1 and #2 in dealing with COVID), coordinated with their respective religious and educational groups and the scientists to guide their citizens through the epidemic. They have, respectively, the first and second lowest incidence of Covid infections in the world. This was not sleight-of-hand. This is not magic. It was simply fundamentally logical and fact-based leadership—rationality in the face of irrationality and mistrust. I also was reminded that while the virus respected no geographical boundaries, it did follow the path of least resistance. This included, obviously, poor and disadvantaged communities.
Rich Get Richer
During this time, the rich have gotten richer and the poor have gotten sicker and poorer. We have also learned how politics can warp common sense and community cohesiveness. By labeling the virus as a foreign threat, a hoax and minimizing its voraciousness, our political leaders unleashed an infection and death rate that could have been radically reduced. This has taught me three lessons:
- The character of a person can not be disguised by their position in power—it defines their actions.
- Human beings are more capable of cruelty and willful neglect that I had realized. This is especially true when their own belief systems are rooted in the oppression of others and a perpetuation of suppression and inequality—and when these prejudices are reinforced by political leaders whose corrupted souls mirror their own.
- Sharing is a willful act. I have witnessed sharing and sacrifice in the support of others. This pandemic has revealed that there is a path of forgiveness, love and equality if we keep focused on the common good—and not selfishness.
When a person looses their eyesight, their brain heightens their other senses. From a study at the Ruhr-Univiersity Bochum¹:
Following the loss of vision, other senses become gradually more sensitive: tactile and hearing acuity and one’s sense of smell all improve, enabling a blind individual to use these senses to navigate accurately through the environment, despite a lack of visual input. But this process takes time and practice. The associated changes in the brain are facilitated by synaptic plasticity, a process that enables experience-dependent adaptation, learning and memory.
When we lose social interaction through self-imposed quarantine, we can lose more than companionship. We lose the invisible binds of our community. We are not able to witness the tiny interactions and events of the community that teach us empathy and caring. The loss of an “empathetic” sense means we are shifting our focus inward. While introspection can be a positive thing, it can also be destructive if the person has not spent the time to be self-aware of their own shortcomings. Rather than heightening other senses, this loss can prevent a person from learning and growing to be a better person in the world. As the study suggests, it takes time and practice to change behavior and strengthen other senses.
This pandemic has revealed, at least for me, the positive and negative impacts of isolation. The positives include volunteering and an increase in charitable giving. The negatives are the formation of ever more recalcitrant hate groups whose sole purpose is to strengthen and reinforce their prejudices—and collectively try to destroy the fragility of our goodness.
The election of 2020 also unveiled a renewed sense of hope and, I believe, lowered my blood pressure. The kindling of love was just waiting for a spark of hope—and the election did that for me. Watching the behavior of the outgoing administration only further illuminates the darkness and hate that was always present. Like a cornered animal, the desperate lashing out and transparent evil that infests the current president reinforces the importance of change. HIs pardoning of his inner circle of mafia reads like an episode of The Sopranos. What has been become ever more clear to me is the destructiveness of self enrichment. Since the start of the pandemic, 651 American billionaire have gained $1tn of wealth². The billions in tax cuts to the 1% club have not benefited those in need. As Robert Reich states in his article in The Guardian newspaper:
In a new study, David Hope of the London School of Economics and Julian Limberg of King’s College London lay waste to the theory. They reviewed data over the last half-century in advanced economies and found that tax cuts for the rich widened inequality without having any significant effect on jobs or growth. Nothing trickled down.³
This makes me sick to my stomach. Yet we live a country that celebrates wealth and, at the same time, refuses to fund efforts that would result in equality. How will this all end? Will we, as as society, learn anything from this pandemic and the consequences of feeble-minded, uncaring and selfish political “leaders”? These miscreants SEE no injustice, HEAR no cries of inequality and only SPEAK evil.
I must say now: I am optimistic.
It may take a while but I believe in the fundamental goodness of humanity. But for this goodness to flourish, we have to clear the debris for the path of righteousness. New growth can emerge from the compost made from deposed despots if we stay focused on love and peace and equity. Finally, I believe the only way we can inoculate against these con-men (mostly men) and hucksters is to strengthen our education system. We need to reintroduce Civics and to teach how to read, research and verify authentic news from fake news. Otherwise, this spiraling gap of bifurcation between the rational and irrational will only continue to widen.
I will continue to serve on the Multnomah LIbrary Foundation; paint and give my work away (so far 86 charities have benefitted); and try to stay healthy with exercise and maintaining my plant-based eating. I suspect that 2021 will be nearly as chaotic as 2020—but with a bit more sanity and rational behavior. I fear that the current president will continue, after the leaves office in January 20, 2021, to whip up the racists and anti-equity folks and may even spawn a third party. The incoming president and vice-president will have their hands full managing to first undo all the damage and second to realign the course of the good ship US on a more equitable and rational course. It is a tall order given the serious divides. I am sure there will be fallout. But with some luck 2021 will usher in a more sane and calm 2022.
All the best to everyone who follows my articles and artwork. I am grateful to you all.
P E A C E.
¹ See: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/12/181219115622.htm
² See: https://americansfortaxfairness.org/wp-content/uploads/12-9-20-National-Billionaires-Report-Press-Release-1T-4T-FINAL-1.pdf
³ See: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/dec/20/joe-biden-trickle-down-economics-build-up