Remember when people were saying 2016/2017/2018/2019 was totally wtf? Oh well…
2020 showed its cards early enough. I quickly figured I should focus on work-related news and steer clear of social media. It takes social distancing to dodge corona, but it takes social-media abstinence to avoid insanity because it’s contagious as feck. Recently, when my curiosity got the better of me and made me look at our national news, a renowned gynaecologist was telling everybody that the corona vaccine was going to leave about two thirds of women infertile. I checked what our neighbours the Croatians were doing and it turned out that they had misplaced a whole offshore rig and had no idea where it went. Then I opened The Daily Mail and there was an ex‑SAS guy who ramboed his way through a bunch of terrorists in Kenya in 2019. Now, in testament to both his chivalry and intellect, our spec-ops hero chose to withhold his name from the public and use the family name of his celebrity fiancé instead, figuring the bad guys might be after revenge. And there was this lockdown-flouting gay orgy in Brussels that the police broke up and caught a conservative Hungarian MEP climbing down the drain in the process. None of these really threw me because it’s just the new normal.
You know what still managed to surprise me? Two things:
The other day the deaf guy across the street put up a Christmas display. Then he sat on his balcony, lost in thought while a brightly-coloured ornament was blaring out Christmas tunes at full volume, a feature which the deaf gentleman was blissfully unaware of. That was possibly the funniest thing I’ve witnessed this year. The other thing that threw me was this large, oddly beautiful moth that landed on my wall and squirted out a wide streak of what I’m guessing was the end product of its digestive system. Up until then I had mistakenly believed that moths churned out tiny pellets.
But other than that, I’ve became somewhat immune to the strange ways of the world around me. For example. Earthquakes, right after volcanoes and tornados, have always been a huge fear of mine. And this week our house suddenly went jelly cake. It was by far the strongest earthquake we’ve had in years. The 2019 me would have shrieked in ultrasound. But the 2020 me picked up the kid, went to stand in the door and calmly narrated the whole thing, “see that’s why we don’t stand under bookshelves”, “look at the Christmas tree dancing”, “will the TV hold? let’s see if the TV holds”. (Well I’m still having panic attacks but I’m keeping them polite and quiet.)
Anyway, 2020 is about corona. Here in Slovenia, just like pretty much everywhere else, people’s opinion on the dangers or even the mere existence of the corona virus is almost entirely dependent on one thing only: their political views. During our long crazy 2020 we’ve proven this for sure. Here’s a quick recap.
In the spring 2020 when Italy was drowning in dead bodies, our government, which at the time was headed by a professional comedian, felt the best course of action was to do nothing because, to quote our then Prime Minister “we’re all going to die someday”. I remember shivers going down my spine at how surreal it felt that our neighbours put their entire north into lockdown while we haven’t even closed the borders.
Our government acted like this virus thing was all a hoax and it was our fault for spending too much time online and filling our gullible little heads with such nonsense. (Those pictures of trucks hauling corpses? Fake. Burnt-out doctors sobbing into camera? Scaremongering.)
A little later when it became apparent that the Italians weren’t dropping dead in the streets just to prank us and we actually needed to like, you know, do something, our Prime Minister stepped down because that’s the logical thing to do when you’re expected to act instead of just standing there being cute. The ruling coalition collapsed. The freshly-resigned PM and the rest of his failed coalition called for early elections because that’s such a wise thing to do in a pandemic. They were basically saying we voters needed to do better this time, that is to give them more votes so that they can rule more comfortably instead of having to, you know, deal with a mildly diverse legislative body like we’re running a democracy or something.
Instead, the former opposition, which funnily enough included the actual winner of the last election (this happens when you win the most votes but nobody wants to play coalition with you), formed a new government and took over. They were able to do so because a few members of the collapsed coalition smoothly moved over into the new one, ostensibly to prevent the need for an early election and a lot more likely to cling to power but whatever it was, it worked, and we avoided the hassle of a mid-pandemic early election that would have most likely resulted in anything other than a stable coalition.
That’s when our little world turned upside down. For brevity, I’m going to call the collapsed coalition and its fanbase our political “left” and the new coalition and its devotees our political “right”. If you’re Western you should know that the whole Slovenian political spectre is left of Che Guevara by your standards but let’s leave this for another day. And it should be noted that only about one third in this country vote “right” while the rest are predominantly “left”, which leaves the political right in a minority, routinely vilified even beyond what it deserves. This of course backfires in the fact that our expectations of the political right are so depressingly low it is hardly possible for the righties to disappoint the electorate (this last phenomenon is far from unique in the world).
Be that as it may, it was the Slovenian “left” who chose to ignore the virus while they were in power and when they lost the throne they totally lost their shit too. When the right started to actually do something about the pandemic, the left was up in arms, peddling conspiracy theories, calling for civil disobedience and fighting every government measure tooth and nail, all the while trampling on its own declared principles. This last thing is very typical of our left; they’ll turn on their heels whenever it suits them. The right, on the other hand, quickly set about scoring own goals, which seems to be one of the few things our political right truly excels at; just when they get one thing right they’ll quickly do something really dumb to even things out. Just a few highlights:
The left declared face masks an attack on our freedom, nay the hallmark of totalitarianism. You could get bullied for being a rightie if you carried one. Our national broadcaster, i.e. tax-funded radio & TV, was platforming people who were declaring how they were never going to wear a mask because it’s fascism. (The studio-live picture at the top features an anti-masker rapper whom the left promoted and swooned over even after he physically assaulted a camera man. Content brought to you by our tax Euros.) The political right was of course saying that having to cover a part of your face was a minor inconvenience at best. When one remembers how things were exactly the opposite back when Islamic face coverings were being debated, it makes your head spin.
Organized by our political left, mass protests against the new government took place every Friday. For months. During the lock down. Hardly a mask in sight, except on the brick-hurling types. It was almost like when people gathered en masse in support of BLM just when it became known that Black people were at elevated risk from the virus and one would normally presume that unless you viscerally hated them you would avoid doing something that could, you know, help spread a killer disease among them. Remember that? This level of insanity may be shocking to you but this is exactly the type of crap Slovenians have been dealing with for a long time.
The left was howling wHat AboUt thE EconoME. The right was clapping back pEople FirSt, EconoMY laTer. Basically, our political left was acting exactly like they taught us to expect of them right-wing jerks. Our right wingers were almost as surprising in their behaviour; the new government put lives before the economy and dished out vacation credits and something not entirely unlike universal income, which pissed the left off something serious. The only constant about the righties was the already mentioned own goals that they couldn’t help scoring, like when our new Prime Minister congratulated Mr Trump on his re-election and then started a Twitter spat with a German official who politely inquired about his state of mind.
Oh, Slovenians and Trump. Scratch Trump, it’s Slovenians and the USA politics in general. We Slovenians, who have been repeatedly found to be one of the most USA-hating people in the whole world (google it), tend to lose our grip on sanity and take teams whenever there’s a presidential election in the States. Melania Trump is probably one of the least invested Slovenians in this respect. The rest of us act like we have a horse in this race, with everybody believing they can influence the USA elections by furiously reposting memes. As for the actual foreign interference in the latest USA elections, I personally believe there was one and it was called Borat; not much to do with us. But the truly fascinating thing about Slovenians and the USA during the corona spectacle was the unbelievable flexibility of beliefs exhibited by people from both sides of the political spectre. If you are a Slovenian leftie, you screamed bloody murder when our government wanted people to wear masks but you had no problem calling Trump a mass murderer for refusing to wear one. If you are a Slovenian rightie, you berated our national leftie covidiots for their objections to masks all the while praising Trump for so boldly exercising his freedom not to wear one. I wish I were making this up but I’m not.
In stark contrast to our obsession with the USA politics, your average Slovenian can’t be bothered to get worked up about the UK and the whole Brexit thing. In a nutshell, that’s because in Slovenia it’s the lefties who are against the EU and the righties who are pro-EU, unless it is inconvenient for them. In the UK however it is leftie Remainers and rightie Brexiteers which is why the Slovenian lefties and righties are confused over whom to side with. Maybe that’s why Brexit is seldom debated outside of business circles in Slovenia.
As said, it wasn’t our political and ideological battles that I found shocking during the corona. It was our collective decline in mental health. I’m talking blinding rage, cognitive dissonance, flat out refusal to behave reasonably and a total disconnect from reality. I suppose I had been a bit bonkers long before corona but now I’m seeing people overtaking me left and right on the insanity scale. The bodily equivalent of what it’s been like would be folks crawling around with oozing sores, open fractures and guts hanging out, all while shouting at everybody else to get their health checked. I’ve been saying that corona affected the brain because, save for brain damage on a massive scale or malicious alien interference, it’s hard to come up with an explanation for what’s been going on. It’s like watching people fight over whether that dress is blue & black or white & gold. (You know, the dress. But at least with that dress it was easier to say who was in the wrong. You know who you are.)
I have pet theories, loosely based on science news and my deepest personal fears. I’m semi-sure that corona is contributing to miscarriages because people have been having an awful lot of these lately and I don’t mean just Twitter celebrities. (I’ve learnt from a wise woman not to congratulate people when they announce their pregnancy – I say “good luck” instead.) Also, I dare venture a guess that the covid disease will turn out to be something you don’t just recover from and carry on like nothing’s happened. I think we’ll be seeing increasingly more (youngish) people with long-term health issues that started presenting when they caught the virus for the second or third time. Those covidiot parties could end up costing us more than we ever imagined. I’m also guessing that, inevitably, corona will be traced back to Africa because that’s where us people and other viruses are originally from. I’ve been known to occasionally get one of my theories right so watch out…
I’d say 2020 was going to be a memorable one but given how things have been going I’m pretty sure its successor will be a wild ride too. On a slightly related note, the lockdown launched an unprecedented batch of freshly-single Slovenians into the dating market so if you’ve been thinking of snagging one here’s your chance.
Good luck to us all in 2021.