2020, annus horribilis we can all agree on this fact! Celebrated on January 1 as the start of a new decade, and bringing with it all of the wildest hopes and dreams, 2020 is finally coming to an end after being one of the most dramatic years in generations.
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But, for all the good reasons we are focusing on 2020, it is important to take a step back and take a broader view. Because 2020 also comes to close a decade that has generated profound changes in our world.
Indeed, the last decade has marked an important change of direction that has certainly amplified the effects of the pandemic we experienced in 2020.
About ten years ago, the world began to emerge from one of the most serious economic crises in history. The dying financial system had just collapsed before our eyes after years of illegal practices and blatant lack of ethics on the part of this industry.
A financial crisis which, despite having caused global damage, saw no culprit pay the price signaling the end of such games. With this in mind, the world of finance embarked on an adventure in search of maximum profits in minimum time.
However, faced with this dynamic, many protest movements organized by “Main Street” against “Wall Street” were born. The famous Guy Fawkes mask inspired by the comic "V for Vendetta" has become the symbol of a population in search of a new way, a new system. Occupy Wall Street and Democracy Now were among them.
Popular protests in Iceland prompted the resignation of the then government.
The decade of 2010 was also the boom of social networks. LinkedIn was created in 2002, Facebook was created in 2004, YouTube in 2005, Twitter in 2006, Instagram in 2010, Snapchat 2011. Time for the pioneers of the genre to develop and globalize and the followers have started surfing the wave.
It was the start of a new age: one of borderless, instant communication, one where it was still believed that we could have friends in every corner of the world and that this would bring humans closer together.
It is not for nothing that the decade that opens then began with the hope of the "Arab Spring”, organized, coordinated and promoted via social networks.
It seemed at that moment that the promises of a new world carried by the entry into the Internet Age and the 4th Industrial Revolution were coming to reality.
Unfortunately, faced with this hopeful start, faced with the desire for change initiated by all these movements - whether protesters or creators of new spaces of expression, communication and exchange - the ax of the system hit hard. And the decade turned.
The Arab Spring has hit Syria's bloody wall and the inability of states around the world to support the people.
Social networks have become places of harassment, revenge Porn and other trolls. ISIS has made it its recruiting tool. The various conspiracies have found there an immoderate space of freedom while science, locked in its laboratories, has failed to get a head start.
Social protests, which have not known the hoped-for institutional response, have become the incubators of populist movements which culminated, during the second part of the decade, with the emergence of incompetent and ultra-divisive leaders: Trump, Bolsonaro , Modi, Orbán, Marine Le Pen… So many carriers of division, of conspirational discourse, making excessive and, we must admit, effective use of an Internet which brutally emerged from its youthful idealism.
The decade 2010-2020 was also that of awareness about the environmental crisis: 2010 and major pollution due to the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig, 2011 and the earthquake followed by a major tsunami in Japan leading to a nuclear crisis, 2012 and Storm Sandy or the inability, in the face of record heat in 2013, to provide electricity to everyone in India. And every year breaking the temperature record of previous years.
And if 2015 may have been a hopeful one in the middle of the decade thanks to the Paris Accord, it only lasted a brief moment. The election of Donald Trump in 2016 sounded the death knell for a possible exit from the crisis in time to limit catastrophic warming.
And since then, of course:
the Trump era where populism is king,
populations increasingly divided by badly programmed algorithms (intentionally or not) and
The finance industry breaking records, when more and more people are on the edge of the poverty threshold or who, like in 2020, die by the thousands due to a poorly managed pandemic.
Why this long pessimistic inventory you will tell me? Especially on this blog which promotes faith in humanity and confidence in the future!
Because it seems to me that to fully understand 2020, you have to go beyond 2020. We are entering a new decade. In 2021, we will “celebrate” the 10 years of the Arab revolutions, bearers of such a desire for change. In contrast, we will also “celebrate” the 20th anniversary of 9/11 which marked the entry into the era of mass surveillance. Faced with these key moments, symbols of different currents and consequences, it is important to think deeply about the world in which we live.
Because 2020 is just the result of all these years.
The disastrous management of the pandemic by some states is the result of the populist waves that arose from the ashes of the financial crisis.
The total lack of international cooperation and the current geopolitical conflicts are also the result of these populist waves but also of the failure of international cooperation projects such as the EU (entangled in the management of the Greek crisis or the migration issue), the Paris agreement or the Iranian nuclear agreement.
The lack of concrete results from international collaboration only reinforced populist discourse and the feeling that states and borders were the best guardians of global security.
The current economic inequalities are the result of the complete absence of reform of the financial system, as well as the complete absence of sanctions against those who have knowingly abused the system.
The negative impacts on our society of social networks and the role they have played in spreading hatred, division and conspiracies are linked to the lack of understanding of their role, potential and the profound social changes they would bring.
But when we look at it more closely, we realize that the decade that is ending is one which consequences and drifts were linked to choices: individual, collective, governmental. So the decade ahead can, if we wish so, be completely different.
It comes down to our choices: our choices to understand deeply the problems of our time and not to just seek easy utilitarian solutions that look good in a marketing campaign. The choice to cultivate ourselves and learn in a consistent manner, taking into account all perspectives. The choice not to focus on oneself but on others and the consequences that our individual choices, choices focused on our self-interest, have on others.
Let us not easily fall into the analysis of 2020 as such. It has been a tough year, but ultimately, through the pandemic, it only revealed the consequences of our choices. It is now up to us to ask ourselves the right questions.
So, how to effectively prepare for 2021?
Go out. Not from your comfort zone but from your understanding zone. The world is bigger than you can imagine. There are a lot of things to see, to understand, to discover. How? Quite simply by going to meet others: those who do not look like you, those who do not live like you. The more you try to reach out to others, the more you reduce your distrust about them the more you widen your field of vision.
Embrace. Your family of course but also "the other" in who they are. In an ultra polarized world, we favor above all those who are “like us”. And it has a devastating effect on our communities. Learn to see others not through their difference but through what you have in common… which is much more than you imagine.
Stop. Not to decide or to act, but just wait a minute. Do not react to the “posts” you see or the news you watch. Because these tools know how to use your emotions to make you react. Your emotions are indicators not decision makers. Listen to what you are feeling, but try to appeal to your reason before you act.
Clarify. Your values, your mission, what is important to you. And find a way, on a daily basis, to live according to that.
Act. Acting is not online, it's in real life. Get involved in an association, in a political party, in your work, with your family. Getting involved is making sure that what you believe in will come true
The decade we have just lived will have been as unique as the year that ended it. It will be a major identifier for the millennial generation, generation Z and generation Alpha, all those who will make the world of tomorrow. Let us try to make the new decade one that will be just as important, but this time through its successes, its exemplary nature in collaboration and the positivity of our decisions.
Happy New Year 2021!