Twenty–Twenty and Beyond—A Year of Loss | John Anstie

The end of last year, 2020, amongst so many momentous events of the last decade, in my little part of the world, marked the tenth anniversary of the start of my blogging experience along with some serious social media activity! That’s a long time in some lives, but it seems like a very short time for me. It has nonetheless been a huge journey, not only on a creative level, but also in terms of our history. Much writing, editing, publishing and the production of a poetry anthology, becoming a core member of a quarterly blog (The BeZine), becoming a founding member of a new, but small chamber choir and an invitation to join one of the UK’s top barbershop choruses, with whom I won a gold medal in 2019. Much change politically, socially and economically.

In this same decade, seven precious new lives were added to my family, one of whom was tragically lost. In the past year or so, we have lost some good friends to a serious virus.

The events of the past year and a half – not forgetting one or two other (some would argue astonishing) historical political changes in the decade – would have sounded like a science-fiction future; perhaps even armageddon. Our non-fiction past tells us that, over the most recent century or two, only during armed conflicts have we witnessed heavier losses in such a short time all over the World. But something marks out this period as different. In some ways it has many parallels in history, but in others, it does not. Yes, there have been plagues before, but not the level of advances in medical science that have never been more evident than now. Throughout the administration and management of the pandemic, somehow, perhaps a little unexpectedly, it also seems to have had the effect of widening inequity between the ’haves’ and the ’have nots’. For most of the latter it has been traumatic; for a some of the former, they seem to have thrived during a period of social stress. Rather like in times of war, there are always those who do more than contribute, they profit handsomely from it. And we shouldn’t forget those in political power, who can’t resist basking in the glory of the battle against the virus, rather than giving all the credit to the medical professionals and scientists, who are the heroes.

We have better medical science, better communication and thereby a greater ability to cooperate and collaborate to solve the challenges we face. But then, what marks out this year as different. It is the politics of division, and jumped up political partisans headed by egocentric soldiers of fortune, whose sole purpose seems to have been to stir trouble, divide and conquer. On top of this, economic policies and our obsession with consumption, growth and of servicing debt has had a massive toll on our security. This starts with personal debt that enabled us to spend, spend, spend until some of us have accrued more debt than we can sustain and have become controlled by those whose money we borrow, and who thereby become the richer for it. So now we know why we have been encouraged to consume; lured into incessant materialism. The major banks have benefitted massively throughout the Covid-19 pandemic by the process of large companies having to shore up their balance sheets. In turn, the national debt of the country has burgeoned and will eventually be shouldered, as ever, by the ‘little people’, that is us, the individuals, who cannot avoid paying their taxes. It will take many years to bring this debt, which was already burgeoning prior to the lockdown, back to a manageable level. In the mean time, during which millions have suffered privation, a few enterprising, greedy, exploitative, gold digging (circle those that apply in your own world) trans-national companies and a few well placed individuals have become significantly better off, it could be argued by a process of morally ‘unjust enrichment’.

Our health service, the treasured NHS, the UK’s largest remaining, but decreasingly publicly owned service, highly valued by us, the people, but, worryingly, also highly valued by the aforesaid international corporate community, particularly those healthcare companies and corporations, who have been lusting over getting their hands on its assets for decades – has been and, as I write, still is being overwhelmed by the demands of the number of cases of Covid-19 on top of all the usual seasonal afflictions that need to be treated in hospitals.

I have it first hand from a friend, a consultant in respiratory medicine, who has been at the front line of the fight against Covid-19 since it started, and who found herself becoming a counselling shoulder for junior doctors and colleagues from other disciplines, who themselves were traumatised by the unfolding crisis. She is now faced with the moral, ethical and psychologically challenging task of treating patients suffering from the serious effects of Covid-19, a majority of whom are self declared ’anti-vaxxers’. I wonder if they realise how lucky they are and how much they owe to these remarkable, caring professionals.

In the past year, we have witnessed significant loss of life, of living and livelihood, of community, togetherness and society. Furlough and business support packages have been kind to some but not to others. Added to all this, divisive politics has had a toxic effect on our sense of common purpose and our faith in the systems of governance and democracy itself. It could be argued that this has been engineered and sponsored by those, who fear a loss of control, a loss of income on many different levels, but there are those currently in power, who have begun to demonstrate not only a greater degree of blatant corruption but also such an arrogant sense of entitlement that they feel they can get away with it. Our economy, our mental and physical health, our morale have been beggared, not only by natural forces, but also, under the smokescreen of viral pandemic, by mismanagement and by opportunist manipulation of circumstances to the benefit of the few and at the cost of the many. Can this, can it ever, by any stretch of the imagination, be called fair? Could it be called social justice? Speaking at least for myself, I feel an insatiable, deep hunger for some humanity, some corrective social justice.

We should, I confess, nonetheless afford some concession and equity to the ‘haves’ as well as the ‘have nots’. There are those of us ‘little people’, who have undeniably benefitted from this ‘age of plenty’ and virtually uninterrupted economic growth over the past several decades, probably since World War Two. However, had we collectively foreseen the effect that our hunger for material things, admittedly driven by our gullibility for the ubiquitous marketing and advertising slogans that have etched their deceptions into our consciousness, then we might have avoided this parlous political and economic situation, if not the pandemic … but then that would be the subject of another essay.

But most of us mere mortals didn’t foresee this coming. We enjoyed it whilst we had it and now we are in danger of losing it, but for one thing.

We do seem to have lost so much in the past decade, but I feel the spirit of Peace, Sustainability and Social Justice still persists not only amongst a sizeable, silent majority but also amongst a precious few outspoken individuals in the world.  It remains as our guiding light at The BeZine and, let’s hope, with many of those who regularly read these pages. We soldier on. We still retain hope that common sense, a common purpose, the common conscience will prevail. Here at the BeZine, this may be thanks to the life and spirit of one of those tireless and outspoken campaigners, the BeZine’s creator and co-founder, Jamie Dedes. 

©2021 John Ansties
All rights reserved


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