I came across this headline recently and it got me wondering: How are people describing this year?
The Oxford English Dictionary describes 2020 as "a year which cannot be neatly accommodated in one single word." I've seen people choose "unprecedented." Some have said "hellacious," which I learned was actually a word. Then of course there are the expected ones that define 2020 – COVID-19, quarantines, election, Zoom and so on.
I thought about how I would describe the year. I also found it hard to choose a single word, given all that has transpired. But for me, in the end, I settled on "faith" – the trust and confidence in things.
2020 shook our faith, no doubt, mine included. I'm one of the so-called millennials who have grown up in the era of rapid technological innovation, the internet and the expansion of globalization.
So, in the world to which I have grown accustomed, students don't lose their visa eligibility just because they choose so-called "sensitive" majors; the apps we use every day to chat don't become suspicious all of a sudden; and science, well, is science.
It turns out, my faith in how the world works hasn't exactly been backed up by reality lately.
As it stands, political polarization is preventing cooperation, international power politics is poisoning interpersonal exchanges, and even the legitimacy of science isn't getting universal acknowledgment. Are we really living in the 21st century?
If we want to pin all this on politicians, we can. We've seen leaders taking care of their political futures as opposed to taking care of their people at the height of the pandemic.
But aren't they actually reflecting at least a segment of the citizenry they serve? After all, through governmental bureaucracies, leaders magnify their constituents' voices and concerns.
And what those voices are saying is that they've lost faith in each other, in their fellow citizens, and in foreigners. But there's nothing new about this. Many studies have talked about how social media are creating information bubbles and how mainstream media are catering only to their viewers' preferences.
2020 has brought a new dimension to this. For many, COVID-19 has meant even greater isolation – physically and digitally. With the election, the geopolitical conflicts, the constant updates about the pandemic, the intensity of the information thrown at audience has been overwhelming. Even for someone like me in the news industry, it has at times felt too much. And many only have time to process bits of information.
So, what 2020 has really done is to pull the veil on problems that were already there. The distrust, which was already rising, got a turbo-boost.
Are we doomed? No. Paradoxically, this year also strengthened the faith of many as well.
For some of us, we had faith in our systems to handle the threats – and it was validated. Some suffered great personal loss, but family consolation steadies them. And each one of us, with the world rolling from one upheaval to another and uncertainty ahead, has trudged through the year.
2021 isn't going to be a cakewalk. Even with COVID-19 vaccines, we still have to face the fact that not enough can be produced, delivered and administered to stop the virus overnight. Many would still struggle with their employment prospects because economic recovery takes time.
The polarization in domestic and international politics is even much harder to bridge. The erosion of tolerance, empathy and understanding is easy. Rebuilding them wouldn't be.
But whatever lies ahead, 2020 has tested us and taught us a lot. We are scarred but we survived. We've accomplished more than enough to believe that we will face down the coming challenges.
For now, no matter where you are and how you are, enjoy the holidays and have a happy New Year. As Oscar Wilde once said, "We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars."
Scriptwriter: Huang Jiyuan
Video editor: Fang Tao
Cameraman: Dan Zeng Jian Cuo
Managing editors: Huang Jiyuan, Zhao Yuanzhen
Chief editor: Li Shou'en
Senior producer: Bi Jianlu
Managing director: Mei Yan
Supervisor: Fan Yun
(If you want to contribute and have specific expertise, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.)