Remember a year ago, when we were all wishing each other a Happy, Healthy, and Prosperous New Year for 2020?
Now that we have 2020 hindsight, as it were, that all seems rather comical, doesn’t it?
A lot has already been said about 2020, and more will be; a global pandemic the likes of which had not been experienced since the Spanish Flu of 1918. It gave us a chance to make some important observations.
To begin with, the incredible progress that humanity has made in science and communications has allowed us to deal with this new virus outbreak faster than at any other time in history. The virus started spreading in Europe in mid- to late-January; by January 30th, the Pasteur Institute in France had sequenced the COVID-19 genome and shared it with the world. Instantly, labs and scientists around the world had access to that information. I can imagine scientists all over the world, taking this as a challenge, bent over their microscopes and trying experiment after experiment to develop a vaccine. We started hearing some hopeful news in the summer, from Oxford University, and then Pfizer – possible vaccines that could provide immunity. Some of these vaccines use a new technique: rather than use a dead or attenuated virus, they leverage mRNA (messenger ribonucleic acid), essentially instructions to the cells to produce the spike protein from the COVID-19 virus, which the body then interprets as a foreign agent and develops an immune response to. This will be the first time that mRNA vaccines will be used on this scale, but they are not new – they are built on the tireless research of Katalin Kariko, who persevered in her research for 40 years and is now seeing it come to its fruition.
There are some incredibly brilliant and dedicated people amongst us, and we should all be grateful for them.
However, on the down side, I have found the level of whining, complaining, “mental health” issues, and general temperament of too many people to be bloody annoying. Of course, there are those who have been deeply affected by the pandemic and the public health restrictions – those families who were affected by the death of a loved one, for example, or all the business owners who saw their livelihoods impacted, if not completely destroyed. The large majority of us, though, have just been slightly inconvenienced by the restrictions. “Oh, poor me – I can’t go to the restaurant with my friends!” Yes – I get that we are a social animal; we all enjoy being around friends, family, coworkers, etc., and being able to get together, face to face, but for a few months out of a lifetime people will complain because they have to limit their movements to try and stem the propagation of a virus?
As a species, it appears that modern life has made us so comfortable that we have lost our resilience.
re·sil·ience | \ ri-ˈzil-yən(t)s \
an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change
I cannot help but think what life was like about 70-80 years ago, while the world dealt with World War II, with bombs dropping from the sky, tanks and artillery destroying towns and cities, dealing with lack of utilities, food scarcity, and the constant fear. 2020 was not at all like that – we have the most advanced global communications network that humanity has ever had: we can stay in touch with FaceTime, Zoom, Facebook, and a myriad other ways. People are just asked to stay home, limit their movements, and essentially still enjoy all the comforts of our modern life. The grocery stores were always stocked with food; we were still able to get everything we wanted or needed, and if you couldn’t go get it locally, well you could use online retailers like Amazon and order whatever you fancied, delivered right to your door!
The amount of absolute idiocy that has circulated on social media, the comments and insults from people who appear to have the intellectual quotient of a mushroom, and the lack of basic understanding of the most simple concepts has been disheartening to watch.
I will make a prediction for 2021, and I believe we’ll see it as early as the first quarter of the year. As the vaccinations start, first thousands, then tens of thousands, of people will get vaccinated on a daily basis (after all, the faster we can get people immunized, the faster we can eradicate this virus!). At some point, someone, somewhere, will have a very adverse effect to the vaccine that will prove to be fatal. Then you will see all the anti-vaxx mushrooms jump up and yell, “HA!!! SEE?? WE TOLD YOU! These vaccines are dangerous and will kill you!!”, and the protests and demonstrations will start. These are the same people, of course, who say, “Oh, come ON! The virus isn’t as bad as they’ll have us believe; only 8,000 people died out of a population of 8 million!” (Using numbers from the Province of Quebec, where I live).
You see the mushroom logic, there? For some reason, 8,000 dead people is insignificant to them (1.8M worldwide).
We need to rediscover our resilience, and for that to happen we need fortitude.
fortitude noun– Merriam-Webster
for·ti·tude | \ ˈfȯr-tə-ˌtüd , -ˌtyüd \
1 : strength of mind that enables a person to encounter danger or bear pain or adversity with courage
2 obsolete : STRENGTH
We’re going to get through this; of that I am confident, and we will do it in record time because we are able to build on decades of research by some incredibly smart people. Not only that, but I believe that the advent of mRNA vaccines and what has been learned will be extremely useful for the next pandemic (not far-fetched to imagine that there will be others).
So for 2021, I wish you all the fortitude to be resilient, to hang in there, make the best of the situation, be grateful for all the technology that has enabled us to work from home and to stay in touch with the people in our lives.
We’ll get through this.
Happy New Year!