2020: Man proposes, COVID disposes

Without entering into the merits of Rosianne Cutajar’s tryst with the business classes, I cannot but comment that such ‘improbable’ links are not surprising because of the small size of the Maltese nation and community

Equality Parliamentary Secretary Rosianne Cutajar (File photo)
Equality Parliamentary Secretary Rosianne Cutajar (File photo)

In a few days, the year that many consider the worst of their life, will be over. Yet it will never be forgotten as it marked a watershed in man’s relations with nature.

And man has learnt a great deal. As The Economist recently put it, there is a lot that “a particle a ten-thousandth of a millimetre in diameter has taught the inhabitants of a globe 120 billion, billion times its size.”

There have been more than 70 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 infections, with the number growing by 4.3m a week. More than 1.6m are known to have died and weekly fatalities now exceed 75,000 – the highest rate it has ever been.

Surely 2021 cannot be any worse.

Humanity has had to adapt to survive – as it is naturally inclined to do whenever it senses danger. People who resent state interference in their daily life have tolerated governments ordering lockdowns, restrictions in travel and restrictions in their personal freedom. When last January, China responded to the virus by shutting down large parts of Hubei province, many commentators said that freedom-loving voters in Western democracies would not tolerate such draconian measures. They were wrong. The majority can sense the difference between the state imposing restrictions intended for the sake of the safety of the ordinary citizen, and restrictions ordered for the preservation of the regime that orders them.

Despite the protests against the imposition of mask-wearing and lockdowns, harsh measures have been willingly accepted. The great majority ignored the cranks who claimed masks offered no protection and the concocted conspiracy theories that balanced what they lacked in credibility by a surfeit of creativity.

Suffice to say that on its website, the World Health Organisation (WHO) had to include a section on misinformation about the pandemic, aptly called “Mythbusters’. The amount of popular myths about the pandemic is staggering!

Yet, at the end of 2020, we all hope for a better 2021, pitching the month next year when all will be vaccinated and life becomes ‘normal’ again.

In truth, life will not revert to what it was. The new ‘normal’ will be different from the ‘normal’ we were used to in 2019.

Just consider the fact that remote working has become mainstream, with a substantial increase in people working from home. More people have realised that they do not need to go to an office to carry out their job and both employers and employees have found the advantages of work being done from home. In practice, remote working will never shrink back to what it was before the pandemic made working from home a solution for many.

This means people can cope with children while working – less demand for child care centres. Offices need not be so big – less office overheads and less demand for office space. Transport need not be resorted to every working day – less use of cars or other forms of transport, implying less carbon emissions.

In fact, the biggest upside to the COVID-19 pandemic is that there is a tangible improvement in the environment. With much of the world in lockdown, the levels of foul emissions have decreased. The skies are blue in Delhi, India, for the first time in years. The air quality in China has improved dramatically.

The effect of changes forced by the pandemic is enormous and sometimes even advantageous to both those directly involved and to society at large.

Relations between members of the same family have changed. The pandemic has pushed the family to spend more time together. We consistently read about an increase in domestic violence.

On the other hand there is a positive aspect to this situation. Over the last few years, many families tended to see each other in passing. Time was considered precious. Time with one’s family has dramatically risen for many, allowing for more quality time with family members.

Parents are now more involved with their children since they are essentially managing their home schooling. Online classes have become the new norm for educational institutions and it has come with some benefits such as parents getting first-hand knowledge about how classes are taught. This helps them to understand how their child perceives concepts. As the online education system grows, we can expect an increase in the reach and accessibility of education within every section of the society.

We have had a lifestyle change for the good. The world has also seen an increase in altruism – such as people doing errands for those who cannot leave their home. Hopefully such acts of generosity will continue after the pandemic.

Today there is also a greater admiration for health care workers and public health officials, as well as more appreciation for the value of science and scientists.

I started this piece with the negative aspects of the pandemic and ended up with referring to some positive effects that it has had on human activity.

Like every other human, I find that hope springs eternal in the human heart.

Let’s hope for a better 2021.

Incestuous island

The recent revelations regarding Rosianne Cutajar, the Parliamentary Secretary for Equality and Reforms, having acted as a broker in the sale of a property to the now infamous Yorgen Fenech, continues to show the strange effects of Malta being a very small island.

It turned out that the lawyer of the seller is the husband of a judge who sits on the Public Inquiry on Daphne Caruana’ assassination. The man accused of ‘ordering’ this assassination is Yorgen Fenech, of course.

The judge offered to resign but the other members who sit with her on the inquiry, the Caruana Galizia family and the government, all backed her to carry on with the job entrusted to her.

Without entering into the merits of Rosianne Cutajar’s tryst with the business classes, I cannot but comment that such ‘improbable’ links are not surprising because of the small size of the Maltese nation and community.

I am sure that most Maltese understand this but foreigners, who do not realise how small Malta is – and how everybody is somehow related to everybody else – might have been taken aback.

This is what makes Malta nice and unbearably claustrophobic at the same time!

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