Pandemic Year Two, 2021 in the old calendar, was a deranged, derivative sequel to 2020. The same plot but more unhinged, more repetitive, and peppered with dumber characters: from Nazi anti-vaxxers that piss on war memorials to conspiracy theorists and psychopathic politicians, quite often one and the same; from the relentless brain bludgeon of Australia’s press gallery to the billionaire Bond villains that flew into space in rockets that somehow look more like penises than most rockets already do.
And the ocean was on fire! Twice!! This sight, the Eye of Sauron drowning in a bathtub, is now my go-to description of what the existential dread in my gut feels like. I’m still not really over that and it happened in July.
The pandemic has taken from us all the lives we once had. An estimated 21 million lives literally, the rest of us metaphorically. It has cost everyone something, some of us everything. It permeates relationships, moods, jobs, moments, plans, politics, the air around us. It is a jarring soundtrack to life, swelling and ebbing but audible much of the time. We are living through a great before and after; a societal and historic schism; a fuck of a time.
But good things did happen this year.
The richer pockets of humanity vaccinated much of itself, a remarkable (but incomplete) achievement. Skateboarding made its Olympic debut. A very large boat got wedged across the Suez Canal for an entire week.
Grace Tame, Australian of the Year, changed the national conversation surrounding sexual assault, sparking a fire and obliterating all the creepy bullshit placed before her.
Thank you all for your unflinching support. The kind words mean a lot, but there is truly no higher honour than being called “a toxic influence”
by Andrew Bolt.
— Grace Tame (@TamePunk) November 22, 2021
Christian Porter, Australia’s most-clouded-by-rape-accusations Attorney General in history, sued the ABC ineptly and will disappear from public life at next year’s election. Ted Lasso’s second season was ok. And Scott Morrison, an effigy of a Prime Minister, became the first world leader to ever reference both The Croods and Talladega Nights while in office.
I enjoy being vaccinated because I’m less likely to die of coronavirus and I can go to a pub instead of protesting about how I can’t go to a pub because I’m not vaccinated, but my personal highlight has to be the large stuck boat. I didn’t even bother pretending I was upset about the global supply chain grinding to a halt. I like metaphors for how life feels more than I like Amazon Prime, and a big dumb boat fucking it up for all the other big dumb boats – cursed to helplessly stare in bored, frustrated horror as plans and dreams for the future evaporate – felt like a perfect metaphor for living through whatever the fuck this all is. Plus the memes were good.
But that was about it… The rest of the year was largely shaped by how illegal being outside was, how sanely (or not) people were handling this fact (it varied!), and a steady, boring oscillation between the last two remaining states of human existence: walking, or not.
And though that blurry middle of the year spent indoors and drunk has now passed and is already undergoing active repression, hopefully to never return, 2021, a bad year, ended exactly as it began: with coronavirus mutating its way through the Greek alphabet, a swelling need for more vaccines, and Murdoch-owned media trying to incite revolt against sensible decisions supported by overwhelming democratic majorities.
Fuck this newspaper is irresponsible and just massively, massively stupid. pic.twitter.com/xtT67Uypp4
— David Milner (@DaveMilbo) December 15, 2021
From the 6th of January US Capitol Riot, a failed fascist coup propped up by Fox News’ airborne pandemic misinformation and blathering Trumpaganda, to the bludgeon of anti-health measures and Mao Tse-Dandrews misery porn that is the company’s Australian portfolio – a daily dossier of talking points for fuckwits who want to be able to pretend they understand important things while in conversation with adults – Rupert Murdoch hasn’t been particularly helpful with humanity’s collective effort to die of coronavirus less.
Two years into this shitstorm, The Herald Sun’s lobotomised libertarian commentary – Melbourne’s unofficial rapid intelligence test – is the anchor that grounds the experience of existing through the coronavirus pandemic here. It is our constant, our rock. I’m not saying it’s a good thing, but unlike so much else this year, we can rely on it to always be there.
As this desperately needed festive season arrives, the Omicron variant, more contagious than Delta, casts a looming shadow. We don’t really know what it means yet, but NSW today hit Australia’s daily caseload record of 3763, trending upwards. Scott Morrison is approaching this situation by advocating for “personal responsibility” – consistent with his twin ideologies of not doing very much and victim blaming – and a heroic “stare it down” approach to pandemic management.
Joe Hildebrand, Australia’s most prominent alpha male, thinks instead of our eyes we should use our testicles.
It’s all smart, helpful stuff.
And none of it is an aberration: preaching personal responsibility while feeling none towards the more vulnerable. This is the philosophy that drives the Morrisons, Porters, Duttons, Lamings, and Murdochs of the world – interchangeable powerful rich white men who have squirmed their way through Grace Tame’s contribution to the year – a deeply felt belief in the right and might of wealth and privilege, a disturbing lack of empathy, a commitment to the language of “fuck you, got mine”.
The perspective provided by the pandemic’s two-year-long breathing exercises has illuminated this decay, and in that there is hope for a better 2022.
Hope is why a growing chorus of independent candidates freed from the oligarchical subjugation that is major party discipline is emerging to face next year’s crucial election. Hope is why independent media continues to sharpen its teeth and chew jugular in the face of quisling derision from mainstream press and defamation lawsuits from the Liberal Party. Hope is why 60,000 anti-News Corporation stickers have now been plastered across Australia, why the groundswell around Kevin Rudd’s push for a royal commission is gaining momentum, and why so many traumatised, shattered Australians have been able to endure this waking nightmare for as long as they have.
And there is no better reason to keep on fighting than hope.