It is that time of the year again. As we approach the New Year 2022, there are Millions of predictions made about the year ahead and how it will turn out for each of us. Right from Astrologers to domain experts to the columnists, there is no dearth of soothsayers ruminating on how the new year would likely to be. So, I join these humongous multitudes, hoping that my “lone voice” would stand out in the “cacophony” of the ones coming out with their thoughts on the New Year 2022. To start with, I disagree with anyone who says that 2022 is going to be the year when we “turn the corner” as far as the pandemic is concerned, and those who see positivity in the “gloom and doom” pervading the current discourse. While I am not a Cassandra, nonetheless, if the experience of the past two years is anything to go by, it is premature to declare victory, especially in the context of the super spreading Omicron variant. Indeed, I would go as far as to say that 2022 would be the year when mutations of the Coronavirus would “overwhelm” us and leave us flabbergasted, and exasperated, and most importantly, helpless.
The last word of the above paragraph best encapsulates what I think we would all feel in 2022, i,e. helpless and hopeless. While this prediction is indeed dire, going by the trends of the last so many years, I could not come up with a “better” word than helplessness, which again reflects both on my morbid state of mind as well as the state of the world, which is anything but, hopeful. Indeed, the two dominant feelings in 2022 would be a sense of disorientation about the Status Quo and a sense of hopelessness that we cannot do much about it. In other words, the culmination of the decades and years of our profligate lives would be the proverbial chickens coming home to roost, meaning that the outcomes and the conclusions to the years of living in the fast lane would be felt in 2022 and beyond.
Take the economy. Decades of neoliberal policies have eviscerated the state and the capacity of society to fulfill shared aspirations for all round growth and even distribution of wealth and income. With the Top 1%c owning as much as the next 50% combined, it is hard to see how we can redress runaway inequality, save through a violent insurrection. Talking about insurrections, it would be prudent to remember the events of Jan 6. 2021 in the United States, when mobs attacked the Capitol, the seat of the legislature in the United States. This is a case of misplaced anger finding its outlet through violence and with the economy deteriorating further, we can more such mindless instances of riots and mob violence breaking out in the US and elsewhere. Moreover, the key thing about the Jan 6 attempted coup is that it was directed by a sitting president, albeit a defeated one, and I would ask you to let that fact sink in as to how bad things could get in the year ahead.
Sticking to the economy, we have seen how virality of the present times is reflected both in the transmission of the virus as well as our lives conditioned to react to such virality online and even in the offline world. As we increasingly base our choices on what is viral at the moment, we become hopeless as something that was true yesterday becomes the opposite today and what more, we are helpless as to what tomorrow would bring in terms of the next viral Tweet, Facebook post, or any other such media that are fueling the virality of our times. Indeed, much like the Coronavirus, our thoughts, feelings, and actions are now dictated by the exigencies of the present, with little thought about longer term thinking. If and when our leaders condign to think longer term, it is only in summits such as the COP26, and even there, the deadlines have been pushed so far into the future that it is an oxymoron if we classify that as longer term vision. So, here we are, flailing about in a sea of hopelessness as to what 2022 would be like and helpless to do much about forces beyond our control.
As I have alluded to politics in passing, let me pin down what I think 2022 has in store for us in this realm. The increasing polarization and the Post Truth politics does not bode well for the future of our species. Instead of focusing on the many pressing events of the day, we see our political elites spending their time in spectacle rather than substance, leaving us feeling as though we are watching a giant and never ending reality TV show. Indeed, watching TV is nothing but a succession of perfectly sculpted PR (Public Relations) events where our Supreme Leaders preen themselves and present us with the “picture perfect” soap opera. Maybe one should not be so critical of them, since we too need an “escape” from the helplessness and hopelessness that we feel and when we get free entertainment from our leaders, we should forget everything else and join in the fun. This then is the crux of the situation where the only way to “overcome the overwhelm” is to find solace in the virtual and now that Meta promises us immersive virtual reality experience, that is one reason to look forward to 2022.
Last, if 2021 was the year of the narrative slipping away from us, 2022 would be the year in which it breaks loose of logic and rationality and instead, the New Normal would be whatever happens Now!! rather than any directed and managed events. In other words, I foresee 2022 as the year of Black Swan (high impact, low probability) events where anything from Ukraine to Taiwan to the restive borders of India can erupt as is Brexit, and the Midterms in the US, China’s slowdown, and to cap it all, the inevitable implosion of our present world due to the many stressors that have built up leading to tectonic shifts and quakes from time to time. To conclude, if 2022 would make us feel helpless and hopeless, it is time to change the channel and thanks for reading (if you have got this far)!!
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