Change is inevitable. How often do we hear those words, and how much resistance do we carry for them? 2020 has been, for our entire planet, a year of deep change. The global COVID-19 pandemic has torn us all from our familiar patterns and imposed a different sense of time and place. For many of us it has placed us squarely in the realm of the uncanny, in the best gothic sense of the word. Our streets are empty, strangers are stranger than usual – even those familiar to us have become largely untouchable.
Fear has not only stalked us it has, to varying degrees, taken up residence in our psyche. What will this mean for us? For our planet? In a matter of weeks, time changed in nature from a race against the clock to complete tasks to a sliding scale of hours with only ourselves and our thoughts and those we share spaces with, in a way we have never done before.
Disbelief, resistance, acceptance. All the stages of grief for something we are not sure how to name yet. A loss of individual autonomy for the greater good. The loss of people we love. Tragedies which have reached out across the globe. We cannot look at 2020 with the secure knowledge that bad things happen ‘somewhere else’, have had to instead look within our own society and see the deep scars running through our complacency.
This year has felt as though the world as we have recently known it is unravelling. Discontent runs through the fabric of our political systems. Justice for all seems as much a dream as always. And yet, so many fierce people are fighting for that dream I can hope the world is reweaving itself into something better.
Our younger generations seem to have turned away from the ‘greed is good’ mentality. They are, generally, a thoughtful bunch. Not only tolerant of the differences between us all but actively celebrating them. Their thinking is fluid. They have rejected the must do’s, the must have’s, the must-be’s and instead seem to walk toward the question marks of life with openness and courage. They enjoy discussion and debate in a way the world has not seen since the 1960’s. Unafraid to stand up for the values they believe in, they are also able to supply an honest and reasonable rationale in the face of stubborn resistance.
Climate change, equality, freedom of speech, the dissolution of racial and gender discrimination, the rights of all humans to take as a given a chance at an increasing quality of life and the freedom to live their best life. A chance for all to dream, with at least a reasonable expectation of bringing some of their dreams to fruition.
If many of the structures of our world are unravelling, then perhaps their foundations had become shakier than we like to believe. Perhaps it is a good time now to embrace our human oneness. To accept that, just as a COVID-19 disregards our race, class and sexuality, so all the wonderful aspects of life on this planet should touch us equally with the same criteria. We are uniquely human, with our own thoughts, fears and feelings, our own stories, and therein lies our intrinsic worth.
Beneath the unravelling, the uncertainty, the fear, humans everywhere are busy quietly reknitting the fabric of our societies. What they produce may hold uncomfortable truths, may scratch at us in ways we might prefer to salve, keep us awake in the night wrestling with our conscience. Let’s all try wearing the new style for a while though, long enough to fashion a new, kinder way to be us.
Leslie Thiele is a writer based in the south west of Western Australia. Her short fiction centres around her characters reactions to the world they live in and social change. A keen student of human nature in all its manifestations, Leslie drops people into imagined situations and environments and waits to see what they will do. Recently completing her Bachelor of Arts in creative writing and literature at Edith Cowan University’s regional campus in Bunbury has further refined her writing and led to her gaining recognition for pieces of her work in various competitions, events and spoken performances. Skyglow is her debut collection of short stories.