It seems in every generation there is a landmark moment in time. Pearl Harbor, the invention of the world-wide internet, 9/11. Tragedy, war, or what have you, these things changed us as individuals and society. We all live through the experiences, and the ones I listed were from a mostly American perspective, but in 2020 the entire world was changed by something we couldn’t even see. Covid was a curse, but possibly the revolution we knew we needed in a way we were forced to understand.
I was a teenager when the internet was born, an idea of connecting our world in a way we’d never imagined. This amazing gift that tore down barriers between countries was quickly marketed and we watched the information highway derail what we knew. Others were just like us, everywhere, but with different experiences. Information and technology grew to intimidating sizes, spyware became a thing. Businesses could now be based anywhere in the world because this fast growing contact and tech allowed so much more than just emails. We could basically be anywhere in the world through a screen. It made sense that the countries with the most advanced technology and the lowest rates for labor suddenly became where everyone bought from. Why would we need industries that cost more when we could get it fast and cheap? That is the moniker of the American way anymore. Wages were kept down to increase profit and we assimilated to having rising costs of living while still holding the idea that college was the only way to rise above. Never mind the 25% interest rate, college education would make life so much better that you could pay it back easily! So many ways we lost our way by holding on to old fashioned ideas in an increasingly changing world. Fast forward to 2020, when the world literally closed. Despite our connectedness we somehow all thought the sickness was happening elsewhere. We lived in our little bubbles, watching the tragedy on our televisions, sending thoughts and prayers to the families of the dead, and not once thinking of how travel, both for industry and leisure, would bring it home to us. For all of our advanced ways, we were completely unprepared.
When we heard of the first cases in America, we were somehow stunned. I’m not really sure how. Even in my small town we were taught in sex ed how quickly an STD could spread through a community, so why were people surprised that Covid was getting into bed with as many of us as it did? One touch, one cough, and it was in the air… possibly? Maybe? All those questions in the beginning that we still have no answers to. “Be Safe” became the new goodbye as we shut our borders and our doors, afraid that our loved ones were next. Some watched society change around them. On my quiet little lane in the middle of nowhere people walked with guns, ammo sold out in some places as looters at rallies took advantage of crowded situations. There was so much more happening in the world, but for once we weren’t too busy to listen and watch. Hoarders and insufferable people took advantage by stocking up on necessities, people… we ran out of toilet paper and cleaning supplies! Going to Walmart became a time to report to your friends that you had left the house and where food could be found. Schools shut down, realizing that putting hundreds of children into one building, about 20-25 per classroom, probably wasn’t the smartest way to handle an epidemic. Poorly equipped, even in this modern age, we suddenly had our faults exposed in the worst possible ways. Businesses closed, unemployment skyrocketed, and we watched the news nightly to try to make sense of it all. Medications became scarce. That wasn’t just because of hoarding or businesses closing, we suddenly faced the issues of what happens when your supply chain for needed drugs was overseas and your country could no longer import. We watched people become homeless as our leaders fought over how to ‘help’ for months. We were not ready, but we were also suddenly exposed to the world in a way we’d never dreamed.
Believe what you will about Covid, the fact remains that people died. A lot of people. They’re still dying or getting sick and we’ve barely scratched the surface of how the after effects of this illness will change us. All that seems so bleak, and yet, in the middle of it all… society has changed. Our evolution, or revolution, began in the middle of our worst days. We were forced to face ourselves and our lives in ways our pre-Covid selves had never had to. Partners and families were forced to deal with each other on a 24/7 basis. We were forced to look at our lives without all of the hustle and bustle. Teachers and faculty had to work more directly with parents than ever before. Less travel and pollution showed us cities with cleaner air than they’d had in decades and people in large cities suddenly got a glimpse into the wildlife around them. Phone calls began to matter more than texts, when weddings could happen they became much smaller and far more intimate. We began to question the things we’d been able to set aside before. In the course of a year, our values slowly changed, and as we drop the mask mandates and begin to see life coming back to normal, we’re also seeing a needed change in how we live. Companies have found that office work isn’t really needed, lowering the stress on many families. The government has begun sending money where they could to the people in need, resulting in changes I’ve seen in my own community. Suddenly the idea of risking your life by exposing yourself to a virus while working three jobs each to pay the bills just doesn’t cut it anymore. Those huge loans from colleges were the last thing on our minds when we had to find ways to eat. Some companies are looking at moving production back to the USA, others are expanding their work force here as they can hire more people without having to pay rent and utilities. Parents are finally fully clued in on just how hard school is, schools are finally seeing that maybe the old school methods of teaching weren’t as effective as they hoped. Watching the world begin to heal when we left it alone, governments around the world are taking action to cut the amount of pollution they put into the world.
Where wars and global communication failed to unite us and see the road we were on, a microscopic disease make us stand still and look around. The enemy of my enemy is my friend, maybe we all needed a common enemy to understand that we really are one and the same despite our circumstances. There will always be fringe voices, those that fight against the science or laws. We need those though. We should never blindly follow any path so they challenge us to stay aware. However, we’ve also started following article links and researching things on our own so at least we’re not listening to those fringe voices blindly either. The fires that, quite literally, burned in 2020 may have shed light on the problems, but looking at where we were and the movements happening everywhere for change, I think we’re setting ourselves on a new path that we needed to find. The last year really will bring about a new normal, but that normal will reach far beyond what we expected. The cracks in society were exposed and for once we all seem pretty hell bent on fixing them, not throwing a band aid on them and hoping for the best.
Maybe when our children look back at where the world finally changed for the better… Hindsight really will be 2020.