Editorial | The year of living dangerously

Paulo Coutinho

It was the worst of times. It was the best of times.
Who will want to remember 2020?
Not you, not us, not anyone who has lived it.
Virtually every family on the planet has been affected by the disease. I had relatives and I had friends who were sick or infected, and a dear friend who died of Covid-19 in his early sixties.
This year the world was subjugated by a “thing” which scientists don’t even classify as a living being: The SARS-CoV-2 can’t survive hours without finding a host and spread its malign nature in humans.
Yet, this non-being has entered our lives deeper than the most intrusive neighbor, threatening the human community and forcing us to change our way of living – and possibly thinking.
Masks, sanitizers, social distancing, self-health care, quarantine, isolation, working from home, studying from home, shopping from home, singing from home, debating from home; even traveling from home! – entered our day-to-day affairs. As did millions of deaths and infected people that everyone observed in real time moving as spinning wheels in a slot machine.
While we mourn the victims of this quasi-apocalyptic disease created by the virus, we are forced to sustain the economic blow to our survival, as individuals, as corporations, and as a society.
The epidemic spread quickly over the world even before it was deemed a pandemic.
The contagion was uneven but widespread.
Macau SAR in its 21st year was no exception. Although we have so far escaped the virus’ deadly promise, the city’s economy was among the countries and regions that suffered the heaviest fall along with some heavily tourist-dependent, remote paradise islands. The root of the problem had long been there, and nobody listened to the calls for diversification. Are we listening now?
In the year of desolation, a more sombre impact was the rise of emotional stress, angst and sadness amongst us, which was reflected in the rise of psychological and psychiatric calls for professional help and of the number of apparent suicides, and in particular among our teens. The root of the illness was also – probably – latent in the community. Will we listen now?
There was also degradation in the human rights domain – here and elsewhere due to the implementation of restriction of movement and freedom, invasion of privacy, and abuse of force by the state. Most of the means were justified for the greater good of public health, but the debate was there and it is here; the hanging threat of the emergence of police-states even in traditionally liberal countries is also a sign of the times.
Air travel, for leisure or business, was suddenly grounded, emptying the skies, and imposed borders long extinct. Is this a shift to stay?
Animals – from mammals to insects – showed up unexpectedly in places that centuries ago were probably their natural habitats. Will they come back?
Countries, regions, cities, villages and neighborhoods concluded that we were too dependent on a trade-oriented economy, and suddenly everyone, from the common citizen to presidents and prime ministers are rethinking policies to go back to some level of self-sufficiency in essential goods.
In the year of living dangerously, scientists of all disciplines, from health to maths came together to produce the unimaginable cure or prevention. In record time, vaccines are being approved and people are being inoculated as we speak, all over the world.
Some say it’s the end of the war. To what peace are we headed?

Categories Editorial Opinion