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Year of the pandemic

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Protesters carry a banner during a demonstration to press for the scrapping of Special Ant-Robbery Squad (SARS) on the Lagos – Ibadan Expressway on October 19, 2020. – At least 15 people were killed, including two policemen, since protests against police brutality erupted in Nigeria this month, Amnesty International told AFP. Anger over abuses by Nigeria police’s notorious Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) forced the government to scrap the unit but protests have continued and snowballed into calls for sweeping changes in the West African powerhouse. (Photo by PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP)

When the next generation grow old enough to find out about 2020, how will you tell them about it?
It will be the year of the pandemic – vicious, haunting, and era-defining, much like 9/11 or the financial crash, but with a much worse death toll than the former, and much more wide-spread economic implications than the latter.

It will be the year of inspiring community spirit but also the year of unfathomable individual acts of selfishness – the year we helped those most need in the community, not just in one country, but across the world, when people took to their kitchens, batch-cooked, packed and distributed food parcels for the deprived. Also the year when people ransacked store shelves and fought over the toilet role.

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It will be the year where we became more aware of the divides in societies across the globe, were from London to Lagos, the working class had no choice but carrying on working with little to no guarantee of safety, while the comfortable middle classes, with comfortable homes, reliable internet and a secure white-collar job could afford to continue working from home; when the children of these middle classes, with access two computers and wi-fi could carry on with their education while many children in deprived areas with no computers, no wi-fi, sometimes not even a healthy, safe environment suffered.

It will be the year we were led by science and questioned by idiots when wearing a mask stopped being a safety precaution and instead became a political statement, a sign of how far along the spectrum one leaned right or left. The year when the president of the erstwhile leader of the free world suggested injecting bleach as a reasonable coronavirus treatment and his cult-like following asked for the head of Dr Anthony Fauci, America’s top infectious diseases expert, for merely disagreeing with their fearless leader. It will also be the year when UK prime minister Boris Johnson boasted about shaking hands “with everybody” at a hospital where there were confirmed coronavirus patients on the day the government’s chief scientific advisors warned the public against contact.

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It was the year the American police force’s blatant racism and the UK’s institutional racism could no longer be ignored. We watched a black man being murdered by a white police officer in broad daylight, in a horrific death that lasted an excruciating nine minutes. Young people of all races spilled on to the streets night after night in protest in the US, while in the UK, statues of slave masters were pulled down amidst the outcry from British nationalists who still struggled to see the problem with honouring these men in gilded monuments.

It was the year a new generation of Nigerians said “Enough is enough” to police brutality that blighted the future for many young people and their families, followed by more violence, more silence, and finally more baseless lies from the dysfunctional government.

It was still the year of hope – hope that despite it all, when things fall apart, we can pull together, that those who have can appreciate what they have and show kindness to the have-nots, hope that with enough of us, science will defeat ignorance, love will win against hatred, the youthquakes of Black Lives Matter globally and #EndSarz in Nigeria will topple the old order. Finally, the year of hope that, with joined forces and shared intelligence, if scientists across the globe can race against time produce not one but three vaccines in the running, there is hope for healing. Above all, 2020 will be the year we will remember, there is always hope, no matter what is going on in the world, in the smile of a child, the victory cry of a protestor, in the kindness of a stranger volunteering at a food bank.

Let us remember 2020 as the year of hope.

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