Some Perspective on 2020

My corner of the internet has been filled with people hating on 2020. My first reaction was fair enough, it’s been a rough year for many. The longer I think about it though, it’s a bit strange.

My online circle is mostly tech workers whose greatest hardship in 2020 was working from their living rooms and ordering food online. Yes, it’s good that people can empathize with those who have suffered: the unemployed, medical workers, the sick and those who’ve lost love ones. Still, there’s something artificial and even unsettling about the media narrative of 2020.

There are three things that stick out to me in the media circus of 2020:

  1. Little coverage of how this was mostly preventable
  2. Blaming the lowest members of society (random people not wearing masks) rather than those actually responsible for mismanaging the pandemic
  3. An inability to evaluate risk in perspective, take second order effects into account and make difficult decisions

My glimpses of the American and British media paint this an inevitable natural disaster. Social media has devolved to shaming individuals and politicizing obvious public health initiatives — the Scarlet Letter lives on in Anglo-American culture.

One of the most informative blogs I read is the public-transportation focused Pedestrian Observations. To quote from Who do you learn from?:

If it wasn’t invented here, it isn’t worth implementing, never mind how many thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of Europeans will die for their civilization’s pride.

Europeans and Americans don’t seem to get that life has returned to some level of normal in New Zealand, South Korea, Taiwan, China, Japan and other countries.

Properly managed, there was no need for much of this.

The documentary Being Mortal goes into it: Western medicine’s main goal is to prolong life as long as possible regardless of anything else. Thus terminal cancer patients undergo horrendous treatments in the slime hope of a miracle cure rather than maximizing their quality of life.

Something similar happened in 2020: people chose blunt and costly lockdowns rather than more reasonable measures such as wearing masks indoors and moving things outside.

It’s incredible rare for young and healthy people to have complications from COVID. They happen, but then again car accidents claim young lives every day.

By midsummer, I’d realized that the mental health effects of the lockdown posed a great risk to me than COVID did. Lockdown sapped my motivation, which meant junk food, no exercise, overwork and the onset of mild depression symptoms. I’d had enough. I started going back to office most days, socializing and getting on with life. Thus the end of 2020 feels more or less back to normal, despite no vaccines in sight for us in Ukraine.

It’s not politically correct to promote general health and wellness (no, someone that’s morbidly obese with type II diabetes isn’t young and healthy). That, combined with masks and common sense (exposed or feeling sick, stay home!) would have avoided most of this. But Western Culture loves a high-tech solution and the illusion of prolonging every life as long as possible.

We’re going to be feeling the second order effects for years if not generations. Depression, kids missing school, junior professionals missing out on careers.

But I digress.

My 2020 started off great. I had a lovely trip to Arizona to get married. Then we found a kitten trapped under a car. Now we’re a family of three.

Personally and professionally this was a year of growth. Despite remote work, I added four people to my team.

I took dozens of amazing all-day bike rides around Kyiv. I realized that I prefer staycations to vacations. I read some good books. In short, a year much like any other.