It’s around noon on Christmas Day and it’s quiet
here in Singapore as I contemplate the screen in front of me.
It’s been years since we’ve spent Christmas in any place other than Malaysia. The last time was in 1997 when I travelled to Georgia in the United States where Rebecca, with Raisa in tow, was pursuing her PhD. We had a lovely time – the cold be damned – and we even had a Malaysian friend, whom we hadn’t seen in ages, drive eight hours from Tampa in Florida to join us for the holidays.
But the Christmas of 2020 has been quiet. We attended church like we’ve been doing since March this year, via the Internet. In the beginning it was novel in the sense that we could choose where we wanted to hear mass. We could choose Malaysia, Singapore, New Zealand, Australia or – if we could wait – even the United Kingdom.
We’ve since plumped for Bishop Gregory Homeming, a thoughtful Carmelite priest from Lismore in Australia. It was convenient too: the time difference ensured that the service would be online by the time we’d breakfasted.
I suppose that’s one of the biggest triumphs of 2020: the Internet’s coming of age. Hitherto casually taken for granted, it’s insinuated itself into our daily lives in ways that would have beggared belief only a year ago.
Now it’s been stress-tested on a global scale as never before. We shop, we attend Church mass, we talk to friends all over the world, and continue to earn our daily bread through its providence.
I’ve seen Rebecca glued to the PC for meetings that have gone on all day. Thankfully, mine have been shorter.
And I’ve seen the screenshot of the Virtual Leaders Meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Community (Apec) where 21 leaders simultaneously met at a night meet hosted by Malaysia.
Under each leader’s image was an identification: their country followed by the leader’s name. And no one seemed to see the irony of having RUS-Putin under the dour visage of the Russian autocrat.
Even the Orange One was there, at least in person if not in spirit because Twitter’s time stamps will attest to the fact that he continued to tweet wrathful denials of his loss to “Sleepy Joe.”
2020 will be remembered chiefly as the year of a virus that’s infected over 79 million worldwide and killed 1.8 million people. It’s also the year that proved the Peter Principle, where a nincompoop rose to his level of incompetence to burden the richest country in the world with the greatest spread of the disease.
And yet, there’s been no Great Depression and thanks to masking up and social distancing, there’s been no overwhelming of hospitals anywhere. More importantly, there’s been no mass deaths a la 1918.
Indeed, there’s a lot less pollution afoot with less air travel and far less traffic. Despite the Donald’s best efforts, the world’s gone greener and the oceans are cleaner.
The year witnessed a triumph for democracy at least in the United States where President Biden offers the chance for a more sensitive and tactful world.
Conversely, democracy failed abjectly in Malaysia where a legitimate government fell because of unscrupulous elements in that same government. Those same elements now lead the new Malaysian government, alas.
But this too will pass. And 2021 must surely be the Year of the Vaccine, the year when mankind will shake off a long nightmare to take our lives back with renewed promise and hope anew.
Happy New Year, folks.