The year 2020 cracked open a push-and-pull between regressive and progressive forces.
On the one hand, COVID-19 exposes the fissures and inequalities in local and global public-health systems. On the other hand, new forms of pandemic camaraderie have formed in mutual-aid societies and urgent calls for public discourse on public health. On one hand, the pandemic exposes the extent of the global rise of nationalism and fascism. On the other, collective resistance and new coalitions have emerged across class, gender, national, race, sex, and other divisions.
The year 2019 closed ominously.
The coronavirus was spreading from human to human. It infiltrated our lives through neoliberalism’s global connections and racialized structural inequalities. The earliest outbreaks occurred in places with the most air, land, and water connections, yet historically marginalized communities often first lost jobs and experienced less access to medical care.
Streets in Ecuador were deserted in April 2020 because hospitals were over capacity. Victims’ bodies lay on the streets. State-wide lockdowns in India in May forced migrant workers to walk hundreds of kilometres to get home. Domestic violence surged globally. Economic, political, public-health, and racialized crises exposed the global climate crisis.
Yet during this violence, transformative resistance emerged, signalling hopeful movements towards environmental, gendered, racial, and sexual justice. In June, Black Lives Matter protests against the US police brutal murder of George Floyd occurred across the globe. In September, feminist movements demonstrated against inequality and sexual violence across Latin America.
In October, Chilean student/youth movements helped overturn the Pinochet-era constitution by popular democratic vote, a major victory for democracy around the globe. In December, Argentina legalized abortion and 250 million workers in India staged a strike against farm reforms.
Entwined structural inequalities will not disappear with elections any more than COVID-19 will vanish with mass vaccination and herd immunity. They require sustained reflection on how the pandemic lays bare entanglements in every aspect of our lives.
The year 2021 needs to be one re-evaluation on how everything that once is “normal” may have been dangerous and destructive.