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The silver lining in diverging from normal.


By Sonia Kovacevic.

As we precariously tiptoe through the second half of 2020, it appears as though the year that was #cancelled within its first three months is looking to be reclaimed. 

2020 has turned out to be beyond one’s wildest imagination. While astrologers were skeptical of 2020, predicting universal disorder due to the rare alignment of Saturn and Pluto, for many individuals this was their year. There was something significant numerologically about the binary numbers, something that only happens once a century. A new decade, a fresh start. 

But it’s not quite the reset most had hoped for. 

From the Australian bushfires, to a brush with WW3, and Kobe Bryant’s unexpected death all occurring within the first three months of the year, the global North was dismissive of the mysterious pneumonia-like illness that first appeared in the New York Times on January 6th.  

Before we knew it, apocalyptic events began occurring one after the other. As the world shut down in an attempt to contain the virus, memes surfaced about “cancelling 2020.” Schools closed, unemployment soared, and people were dying in colossal numbers. 

During the months that followed, amidst distractions in the form of banana bread and zoom meetings, lives were irreparably changed, both due to the pandemic, and revelations surrounding police brutality.

2020 has provided us with the opportunity (and desire) to diverge from normal, to engage in harsh introspection. And that’s precisely where this year’s silver lining lies.

Some lessons: 

Look for patterns, find shared value.

One fundamental problem in the United States was its initial ignorance regarding what was happening around the world. Once the coronavirus hit home, first in New York, we pivoted quickly and operated in unison, thanks, in part, to daily briefings at the hands of Gov. Cuomo. While COVID-19 poses a threat to our lives, moving forward we need to ask: how can our ability to fight toward a common goal (in this case against COVID-19) be transferred to the fight for our climate? Despite our differences, we can work together. We need to listen to each other, follow patterns, find a common goal and work toward it.

Humans have a vast impact on the planet.

As streets across the world began to quiet with people quarantined, businesses closed, and travel coming to a standstill, we saw a dramatic decline in air pollution around the world. April saw the most significant decline in carbon emissions globally, projecting a 5.5% reduction compared to 2019. While shutting down economies is not a viable way to offset climate change, it has further demonstrated the effect overconsumption is having on the planet. It’s time to accept that while we are the problem, we are also the solution. 

It’s time to stand up for what is right.

Memorial Day marked another milestone in community action, when a video of the murder of George Floyd went viral, creating uproar regarding police brutality. Despite lockdown, hundreds of thousands took to the streets to demand justice, binding in unity to demand systemic change. The immense focus on police brutality led to the #DefundPolice movement, which posed questions surrounding the role of the police, and the need for a shift toward a more inclusive and community needs-based response.

Social media played an integral role in shedding light on racism, especially in the fashion industry. The exposure of racist structures saw many step down from management and leadership roles, due to a demand for transparency, accountability, and representation.

The state of the world gave way to a revolution. Despite people being bound to their homes, what was right for the collective outweighed individual needs, encouraging necessary discourse online, among friends, family, and businesses. One such platform that emerged from the crisis was intersectional environmentalist, formed to shed light on the injustices faced by marginalized communities and environmental degradation. Now, more than ever, we need to keep the momentum going. 

Redefining a new normal.

Learning and un-learning ingrained values and behaviours has made many of us ask: are our choices and actions reflecting the life we want to live? Have our (often nonsensically) ‘productive’ lives got the better of us? Are we living in line with our ‘authentic’ selves? Working remotely has proved successful for many businesses, and has provided individuals with the space to re-evaluate their values. On a collective level, businesses have been forced to look at how their culture and behavior reflects their values. Many are engaging in social-led movements like the 15percentpledge and pullupforchange, holding a mirror up to evaluate whether their voices are representative of all of humanity, particularly focusing on giving a platform to BIPOC who have previously been underrepresented, marginalized, and oppressed. The norm has been disrupted and exchanged for a world that is value-based, in turn encouraging transparency and social consciousness.

There is no doubt that this year has been profoundly challenging. However, in writing this piece, I am aware that it comes from privileged perspective, and that many affected by the events of this year are prioritizing matters relative to survival. The West has historically taken advantage of its power and position to oppress and conquer, therefore, as a society, we have a responsibility to shape humanity for the better. Our daily choices, the conversations we have, the businesses we support, the food we eat, and the clothing we wear can all make a difference. It’s our job to reflect and ask, ‘what kind of human do I want to be?’

Homepage image via @itskarliwoods