By Gitanjali Marcelline/newsin.asia
Colombo, December 30: Reflections….The end of 2020 is nigh. New Year’ eve beckons. It’s party time! But my problem is, I’m not sure if I want to party. I’m overcome by the desire to make merry but am also haunted by the possibility that it is all completely foolish, wasteful and meaningless.
It gets worse each year: especially this year, with the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic having wreaked havoc and misery in people’s lives for nearly a year. It is havoc, with 82,408,437 reported cases and 1,795,508 dead, at the time of my writing this article.
Healthcare workers, especially those in the frontlines are at higher risk of infection and death. Yet, they have carried on regardless, trying to save lives. We owe much to them for their dedication and commitment. As for the families of the infected and dead, it has been a time of despair, not knowing if their loved ones will pull through and in some cases fighting for the burial rights of the dead.
Yet, in some other cases, the covid-19 situation has erupted in riots in prisons resulting in deaths, some by gunshot wounds. The perpetrators are yet to be brought to justice. It has also been quite a daunting task for law enforcement agencies to enforce Covid-19 safety rules, including wearing masks, social distancing, adhering to quarantine, lockdowns and curfews.
There have been the advantages and disadvantages to lockdowns. Those who adhered to safety rules have kept themselves safe. It has also brought about a bonding in families which were not there before. Yet there have been cases of depression and domestic violence, which law enforcement, judiciary and mental healthcare workers (counselors) are trying to deal with.
Lockdowns have affected the economic lives of daily wage earners, especially those from urban areas, without access to work and without adequate relief to sustain families, resulting in some taking to the streets seeking redress.
Overall, world economies have been affected by the pandemic, resulting in retrenchments, bankruptcies, etc. In Sri Lanka the three main foreign exchange earning sectors have been affected – migrant workers, apparels and tourism. Migrant workers found themselves thrown out of jobs and destitute living in parks until arrangements were made by the government to repatriate whoever they could. As for apparels, they too have been hard hit with many clusters hit. Reparations are underway with compensation and safety measures in place to revive the industry which was a backbone of the economy.
In the tourism sector, the formal and informal sectors have been the hardest hit with airports closed, 5-star hotels and guest houses not operating owing to tourists not coming in.
The Government of Sri Lanka (GOSL) is on an ambitious plan/drive to resurrect the tourism industry by opening up ports for tour groups/individuals to visit, with some measure of safety precautions including PCR testing and quarantine in place.
Another welfare sector which has been hard hit by Covid-19 is the education sector with decisions been taken to close higher educational institutes and schools for the safety of the children and the youth. Although attempts are being made to conduct e-learning, it is now known as to how successful this is. Informal sectors like the private bus operators and school van operators have also been hit by these closures.
The pandemic also brought on a change in how people work, with both the public and private sectors being compelled to have staff working from home on roster basis for safety reasons as well as to reduce overheads. Whether this trend will continue will be interesting to watch.
2020 was also a year of political change in many countries. In Sri Lanka, there were Presidential and parliamentary elections, where a new Leader and Legislators were elected to Parliament. In the USA too, there was a welcome change with a new President and Vice President, who believe in diversity and the Rule of Law.
2020 was also a year of love and loss, bonding and separation for many. I wonder if you perceive the difference, a sense of change. Is it because the goalposts of social conscience have shifted without warning? Have we or the world changed?
Getting back to my quandary, there was a time when I was innocent. We were innocent. Perhaps the world was innocent. We did not know and therefore we did not care. A party was just that and nothing more. We did not have to dress up and dance in order to feed the victims of an earthquake. We did not worry about the amount of food we consumed or the liquids we imbibed, for they were there for our pleasure and we believed we deserved to have a good time.
I’m not sure we do anymore. Do you believe you deserve to have a good time? To dance until demented while the victims of natural and man-made disasters languish in hospitals and camps, to turn up the music while millions are dying? While thousands wander homeless, ill, diseased, crippled, without anyone to turn to around the globe?
If I’m confused, it is because I believe in having a good time; in laughing and making merry and yes indeed in spending that which I have rightfully earned. But I also shudder when I think of the other side of the coin.
I wonder why we have changed. Why the world has changed.
May you and I find peace of mind in 2021!