What comes after our current lot can be a product of our own imagination, with opportunity and healing on the menu, writes Mr Siphiwe Mpye.
The year that shut down the last decade was incomparably bad, making those 2016 and 2019 demons seem downright desirable at times. For months we negotiated a disease that seemed to seek out so many, even as they stayed at home and washed their hands as often as their favourite surgeon on Grey’s Anatomy. With over 100m infections worldwide, it is obvious that what we left behind – that ogre we were so keen to cancel – has doubled down on its devastation and is largely here to stay. Notwithstanding some relatively distant vaccine hopes for those of us not on the frontline, 2021 will bear a lot of resemblance to its predecessor.
So, what do we do with this knowledge? The first thing is to recognise the advantage we have over this time last year. Covid-19 was still intangible and isolated to parts of the world other than our continent, with some of us even believing that black people – and children and young people – were immune. We also knew nothing of the looming global seismic shift: an unprecedented global lockdown; a surge in popularity for banana bread and home workouts and reboots for Black Lives Matter and ‘Jerusalema’.
We may still not have some answers, but much of the mystery is gone, allowing us to brace for a worse before better scenario. Worse death, worse trauma, worse environments for mourning, worse economic woes and worse scandals at the intersection of politics, business and greed. So I approach 2021 with a precarious balance of goals and timelines, adjacent to being completely open to what may be, without any expectations.
But the optimist in me looks past all of this, recognising a chance to use what we do know, to fashion some kind of palatable future, over which we have some dominion, a bravery to bully the year before it bullies us.
In all that, there is also opportunity to start the slow road to incremental healing from all the things that hold us back: as individuals, families and a people. We have to want it, we have to demand it, in spite of our fears, otherwise our post Covid-19 collective trauma will rival that ever resilient post-Apartheid PTSD.