2020 in review

Hoo boy. 2020. What a year.

To think that in 2019, the worst I was worried about was the smoke from apocalyptic bushfires.

That I was going to try to escape it by travelling abroad, returning to Europe for a bit.

It's been a testing year, to be sure, but there's a few things that I think I can be grateful for.

Working from home

Yeah, I like this. Controversial for some, but as a single guy with no children (or really, any responsibilities at all), working from home has really given me back a couple of hours each day. Did I spend those two hours sleeping? Sometimes. Did I spend those two hours watching Netflix… Sometimes.

I'm fortunate enough to work for an organisation that's reasonably flexible; even when I was in a customer-facing role, I was able to work from home from time to time. I'm fortunate enough to work in a role that allows the possibility of working from home, full stop.

But of course, as with many other workplaces, working from home was the exception, not the norm, and there's definitely some roles or work where in-person collaboration is superior to video calls or asynchronous communication.

What forcing everyone to work from home for an extended period of time did, however, was highlight some of the gaps we had at work.

It's easy to assume that people are doing things, and that things are getting done, when you're turning up to an office 40 hours a week. It's easier to see that not all of these things are happening when you have only the cold, hard metrics to look at.

The US Election Outcome

This one is a bit mixed. I'm not a citizen of the United States, but it's hard to deny the influence they have over Western countries, and Western democracies, by dint of the big tech companies - Apple, Google, Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, and many more - that are incorporated there and subject to their laws.

The US Election Outcome was a relief. I found myself, in the week following the election, wondering whether I should've put some money on Trump to win, just in case it happened, as a consolation prize. I'm glad I didn't, and the fact that so many Americans voted for him is disheartening, but the fact that so many more didn't vote for him was heartening indeed.

In a year filled with so much crap - fires, racial injustice, a global pandemic - the fact that the people of the United States voted to make Trump a one-term president, in spite of the massive amounts of misinformation generated by the president himself (and, admittedly, Murdoch media - apologies for that one) was a small spark of light in the darkness.

I probably follow US politics more than I should (and really, only because the last five years has been so exceptional; I think many would be in the same boat), and I look forward to being primarily anxious about local, state and federal politics here in Australia once again.

The Australian response to COVID-19

I've not been more abso-2020-lutely proud to be an Australian than I have been this year.

We've had our challenges this year - the residential tower lockdown in Melbourne, the Ruby Princess in Sydney, the present spike in infections in Sydney, for instance.

But the world-class response we've had to the pandemic has meant that (along with the benefit of being in work that hasn't been affected so much by the pandemic) - the theme for the year for me has really been "shrug can't complain".

And it's not because we've had a perfect year - we haven't, see above re fires, pandemic, etc. - but in comparison to the absolute travesty of pandemic responses enacted by Australia's peers (or, well, those we like to think of as our peers) - Britain, the United States, many parts of Europe - we've done exceptionally well.

In fact, I daresay that (with the possible, potential exception of New Zealand), I can't think of another place I'd rather have been in the world.

It might be easy to dismiss our success as being a factor of our isolation (we don't have huge land borders, removing a vector for transmission), or our small population (exponential spread is exponential), or even the fewer number of jurisdictions we have (governmental bureaucracy is exponential).

We also have the advantage of our initial lockdown coinciding with our winter - the benefits of which are unknown, but I suspect people were less inclined to mingle in inclement weather.

But really, nothing we did was impossible for other countries. Harder? Sure, it's probably easier to wrangle eight states and territories than fifty. You might need people to patrol land borders that we just don't have.

But it's not as though those things couldn't have been done, and the fact that we've done it is proof that it can be done.

And our success here means that, when it comes to things like spikes, we're able to stamp out even very small numbers of cases - or even large ones, by our standards (sometimes over 700 cases a day during the peak of the Victorian outbreak).

When it comes to the vaccine, we have the luxury of letting other countries go first, because we're not relying on it to suppress the spread of the virus (not that that's guaranteed, either).

Sure, I recognise that there are deeply entrenched social and political factors which might mean that a response like ours couldn't have been just copied and pasted wholesale into countries like the United States or Britain.

But I'm damned proud of what we've done. 🇦🇺

2021

I don't know what the coming year will bring, and it seems like it'd be asking for trouble to assume that it'll be better.

It's going to sound a little corny, but having seen Australia, my team at work, my friends and family, all pull together to get through the massive dumpster fire that 2020 is, I'm cautiously confident that we'll get through whatever 2021 has to throw at us.


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