Big Ben rang in the New Year at midnight, 31 December 2020.
It was the first time its chimes were heard since repairs and reconstruction were started back in 2017, and though they are to continue till 2022, it was a good omen that it was able to “ring out the old” and “ring in the new”.
That chaotic year, with 1.5 million dead from the coronavirus, 75 million infected, and an economic downfall of trillions of dollars, had finally come to an end.
This is our opportunity for a fresh start and a Happy New Year.
Was that just wishful thinking?
It is hard to conceive anyone not rejoicing at the passing of this cursed year. One could almost hear a global sigh of relief.
We embraced the New Year with optimism and hope. The new aesthetic pleasure afforded us quickly vanished when a big bang was heard on the steps of the US Capitol.
A criminal element infiltrated a peaceful march in support of the president, stormed the Capitol steps and transformed the music and prayers to tragedy and death.
Was that a prelude for things to come?
The pandemic reached new heights, mutating to a different strain which the vaccines that were rolling out would be unable to arrest. The contagion of the variant was faster than the previous one and more doom and gloom lay in store. It was as though 2020, reluctant to fade, exited with a furious slap on the face of mankind.
What would follow? Unrest in the US bodes poorly for the rest of the world.
Our curious mind wondered, before turning in despair to that ancient powerful practice: astrology. Dismissed by many as a quasi-science, it has been proven accurate for centuries, to this day. Can we deny that we often turn to our horoscope for enlightenment and guidance? It is worth a try.
Renowned astrologist Alice Bell gave us some hope, but he warns that life as we knew it shall not be resumed any time soon. We did not need her services to figure that out. Five million doses of vaccines that require one dose and 10 billion of the current two-dose vaccine need to be manufactured. That, if feasible, would only cover 70 per cent of the global population. Besides, so many are now apprehensive of the consequences of the vaccine itself.
We have to forego our old way of life, no hugging, no kissing, no touching another human. With our monkey masks on we can only dream of 2019.
Leslie Hale, another cosmic viewer, agrees mostly with Bell. If astrology is anything to go by, it is going to be a messy year.
Maybe the Dean of Astrologists, Kelly Fox, founder of Astrology TV, who gave us a breathtakingly accurate prediction in 2019 of 2020 will have something different to say about 2021. She specifies certain dates — February, June and December as causing something of a cosmic power struggle as Saturn and Uranus face off when 90 degrees apart.
Thank you very much. We have heard enough and admit it is a pseudo-science, after all.
The world has turned upside down and all indications are, it will take a while before it turns upside again. Will that be in 2021?
Not so fast. Have you forgotten about the pandemic? We have to live with it, around it and across from it. We need to remould our values, our goals, our lifestyles and perhaps even our careers.
Fox predicts the last days of December to be a pivotal phase for hope amid uncertainty. This is only January. What do we do, meanwhile?
We need to cope, to adapt to the many challenges left behind by that infernal twin year.
Under normal circumstances we would travel, rest, view new places, admire new vistas, but travelling is mostly out. We are by and large homebound. We work from home, study from home, and even shop from home.
No human activity? By all means you can exercise at home. Technology has come to the rescue to make your home experiences as pleasant as could be.
You will not even want to leave home. Increasingly sophisticated machinery, such as we have seen in the recent US presidential elections, will do much of the work for you. It’s like magic.
Robots can clean your house, improve your TV viewing and enhance your lap-top connectivity. Zoom has quickly become a household word and that is only the beginning.
Robotic devices will take care of the elderly. Why risk contamination from human care-givers?
Will we ever recover? Probably not, but we have to re-invent ourselves while this pandemic intensifies. We have no choice.
Restaurants will become delivery services. Drones may be used in some areas and new industries will benefit enormously in 2021.
Clothes improving your air quality are already in the works.
New beds are being manufactured to make your every move more comfortable as you work or study or watch TV or read. Read? God forbid. There is no time for such a human activity.
5G will allow physicians to examine, diagnose and treat you as you lie on your cushy, digital bed. Even opticians can examine, prescribe and have you choose the most flattering frames to enhance the beauty you will see in your mirror.
Gadgets, gadgets and more gadgets: unbelievable technology is inevitable.
Inevitable also is the existence of mankind.
“One should be able to see that things are hopeless and yet be determined to make them otherwise.”
F Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940)
*A version of this article appears in print in the 14 January, 2021 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.