“There are decades where nothing happens, and there are weeks where decades happen.” So said Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, the first premier and founding head of the Soviet Union. Better known by his alias Lenin, he died in 1924, nearly a century ago. We’ll never know what he would have made of 2020, a year so dramatic it makes 2016 (with Brexit, Trump, and a slew of celebrity deaths) look like a temporal non-entity.
2020 began with the Australian bushfires, the assassination of an Iranian general (which nearly caused World War III). Then you had the struggle for Hong Kong, the Harvey Weinstein verdict, the death of George Floyd, and the dramatic, divisive and preposterous US presidential election. 2020 was officially the hottest year ever (since records began). It was also a year when the world was being seriously beleaguered by a never-ending pandemic, conflicts, economic recessions, and natural disasters. No surprise then that 2020 was the worst year for economic growth since World War II.
As a result, more has changed in these past months than at any other moment in our lifetimes, and many things that would have seemed unimaginable just a year ago have come to pass. 2020 has ratcheted us into an entirely new world, and tis the nature of ratchets that they do not move in reverse. In other words, welcome to the new normal, whatever that my entail.
Film critic Stephanie Zacharek said that “2020 tested us beyond measure…a year you’ll never want to revisit.” Writing in the 14th December 2020 edition of Time magazine, Zacharek went on to say: “There have been worse years in U.S. history, and certainly worse years in world history, but most of us alive today have seen nothing like this one. You would need to be over 100 to remember the devastation of World War I and the 1918 flu pandemic; roughly 90 to have a sense of the economic deprivation wrought by the Great Depression; and in your 80s to retain any memory of World War II and its horrors. The rest of us have had no training wheels for this–for the recurrence of natural disasters that confirm just how much we have betrayed nature; for an election contested on the basis of fantasy; for a virus that originated, possibly, with a bat only to upend the lives of virtually everyone on the planet and end the lives of roughly 1.5 million people around the world.”
Ever the film critic, Zacharek added that “If 2020 were a dystopian movie, you’d probably turn it off after 20 minutes.” Not sure if that’s due to boredom or sheer terror, but I get her point because 2020 was just weird. Indeed, the cover for that particular edition of Time declared 2020 as “the worst year ever.”
Okay, so 2020 may not actually be the worst year ever. Every single one of us would happily take 2020 over any year before penicillin, indoor plumbing, electricity, regular trash collection, Netflix, or any year during the two world wars. But very little felt real in 2020. Screens became not just entertainment portals but a connection to the rest of the world, where we worked, learned, attended birthday parties and holiday gatherings, played games, and tried to maintain some semblance of real life. The concept of time in 2020 started to slip and slide. Each day felt more and more like Blursday, where yesterday still feels like today, and today still kind of feels like yesterday, and as such all the days merge into one.
And it seems I’m not the only one who feels like time is now distorted beyond normal comprehension. In March 2021 Richard A Friedman, professor of clinical psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College, said: “I hit a wall in late February and felt that life had taken on a quality of stultifying sameness. Was it Wednesday or Sunday? I couldn’t really tell: every day of the week felt identical because there was nothing to distinguish them. Work, read, exercise, eat, repeat. Like nearly everyone I know, I have settled into a state of dreary uniformity.”
American talk show host Stephen Colbert recently confessed he no longer follows the calendar of “the before times” because 2020 was “the year that took 100 years but was also somehow one long day.”
Way back in February of 2021, in an article in the Atlantic Monthly author and journalist Helen Lewis described how the coronavirus showed “how our existence has been put on hold, how time has telescoped while our horizons have contracted.”
In the same month Bill Maher, another American talk show host, made the following comment: “We are half way through February and I still can’t wait for last year to be over. What the fuck!? I thought this was going to be a better year.” I guess we all did Bill. But, alas, the year 2020 was cursed. This is widely acknowledged. The end of any year is meant to be a time of reflection, but for most of us 2020 felt like an entire year of reflection. And 2021 has so far brought little relief, with the first month of this year feeling a lot like the 13th month of last year.
2021 sure seems to have gotten off to a flying start. Covid has slapped at least two new variants upon us, one from Brazil and one from South Africa. Brexit is still promising to bring the much-anticipated chaos many have predicted. And America seems to be on the verge of civil war. Hey America, who would have guessed that, when it comes to terrorism, the calls were coming from inside the house?
Despite this breath-taking bolt from the starting line, 2021 will have to do something truly spectacular in order to beat 2020, the year that changed everything. Any optimism attached to 2021, and there seems to be some (mainly due to the vaccine), reminds me of a joke where two old Jews are sitting on a park bench. One says “How are things?” The other says “Better than next year!”
Speaking of pessimists, in a recent Guardian article the ever-controversial Frankie Boyle described 2020 as “the year we’d rather forget.” He succinctly added “2020: what a time to still briefly be alive.” Whilst much ink has been spilled reviewing the horror that was 2020, two of the best reviews you will come across are presented by Frankie Boyle and Charlies Brooker, arguably two of the best comedians, satirists, and political commentators in Britain. Both are controversial in their own ways and both had a recent 2020 year-end review show air on TV. Brooker had the mockumentary Death To 2020 air on Netflix, and Boyle had Frankie Boyle’s New World Order 2020 air on the BBC.
Last year was perfect for their form of black sky thinking, which is why both shows are worth watching in full, despite receiving mixed reviews. Catch them where and when you can. In the meantime, please find below a selection of quotes from both shows. And, yes, I know there’s quite a few, but they are all rather good (at least in my opinion). As much as one can given, you know, everything that’s happening, enjoy!
Quotes from the BBC comedy show Frankie Boyle’s New World Order 2020, first aired 01 Jan 2021…
This year 75,000 people died in the UK, and it’s hard not to feel they made the right decision.
But there was some hope with the approval of the vaccine and, to be fair, at this point in the Scottish winter, I don’t care if they vaccinate me with a bullet to the fucking head.
Personally, I’ve long been expecting some kind of apocalypse, but I didn’t realise it would be this boring. I thought I’d be sharpening a bedpost into a stake to fight in some kind of underground car park coliseum, not walking around the big Asda just to feel alive.
I’ve found I’ve got nostalgic for arseholes. You’re just like, “Oh, God, I used to see people I didn’t like and it was better than this.”
I’m very hopeful about the vaccine. I don’t care if I turn into a lizard. It’s better than living inside with my family.
One huge story this year was the US election. The election of Joe Biden didn’t show that centrism is back, it showed that it’s now just barely preferable to madness. There really shouldn’t have been so much riding on a dying man beating a demented mango.
Despite his post-election attempts to incite a civil war, Joe Biden isn’t going to prosecute Trump, because no US president is going to risk a reality where there are consequences for your actions.
Looking back, 2020 wasn’t all bad. Some of it was terrible. Even the Yorkshire Ripper got sick of it and opted for eternity in hell rather than finishing the year on Earth.
President Trump, looking like Frankenstein’s monster won a holiday, has worked tirelessly to eradicate climate change by simply denying that it exists…He doesn’t react to external stimuli. It doesn’t enter…He’s a sort of black hole of truth. No truth is going in and no truth is coming out.
2020 is a year when the UK government got a lot of deserved stick. Priti Patel came under fire for being a bully. Personally, I’m shocked that someone in favour of dumping refugees in a volcanic outcrop 1,000 miles from land isn’t a delight around the water cooler.
Dominic Cummings left Number 10 by the front door. It was odd. Not least because the usual way he leaves the room is by crawling backwards into a fireplace clutching an upturned crucifix.
In Glasgow, lockdown was the starting pistol for old people to start haunting the streets like they’d formed a search party to go and find the coronavirus. The streets were thronged with the sorts of people who only normally leave their homes to vote for fascism. Basically, if you had a heart like a withered party balloon and lungs like a toddler’s testicles hitting sea water, it was suddenly time to get out and about.
And even the roll-out of a vaccine has fuelled conspiracy theories. Why would a vaccine contain an electrical component to monitor the British population? Once this is over, we know exactly where the population will be, the pub and Primark. Why would they bother to plant a microchip in you when you’re constantly voting for them anyway, SHARON?!
Ken Cheng: The pandemic started with it being mostly the China angle, and that was exciting for me because I got asked to go on loads of interviews, so I was raking it in. Now everyone has it. I actually miss the days when only Chinese people could have it. It was like, that was our thing. Why can’t white people just let us have our own thing? I’m going to say it: getting coronavirus is cultural appropriation.
This year, Health Secretary Matt Hancock, a man who looks like he was breast-fed until he was 29, has been unbelievably busy, spending upwards of 16 hours a day appearing in the dictionary under the word “fuckhead”. Of course, it’s easy to make fun of Matt Hancock, which is why we’re all here.
So, with the UK becoming the first country to approve a Covid-19 vaccine, the year ended on an upbeat note for fans of unforeseen side-effects.
It’s worth remembering that things that currently seem dreadful or worrying will eventually pass as we are ground under the chariot wheels of climate collapse. Having Brexit at the end of a year like this is like finding out your cancer has spread to the walls of your house. Personally, I think that sooner or later the British will re-enter Europe. Admittedly, as refugees. One major problem with Britain is that everyone over the age of about 55 sort of thinks that they fought in the Second World War. You didn’t fight Hitler, Kevin, you’ve sleepwalked onto the drive in your pants again.
Back in April Jeremy Corbyn stepped down as Leader of the Opposition and the Labour Party undertook a radical rebranding with the replacement of an unelectable 70-year-old man with an unelectable 57-year-old man, Sir Keir Starmer – a sort of human abstention. A man so boring that already he’s been nicknamed Sir Keir Starmer.
I know that sometimes this year it might have felt like the whole world was against you. It’s worth remembering that actually, nobody gives a shit about you. Which can be a liberating realisation.
Our modern political history is an irredeemable conga line of narcissism from Churchill to Johnson via Tony Blair…I suppose if I could boil it down to one sentence, it’s this. We need to stop treating the traumatised monsters who rule over us as bumbling eccentrics.
Quotes from the Netflix mockumentary Death To 2020, first aired 27 Dec 2020…
2020, a year so momentous they named it twice…the most historic year in history.
Davos is basically Coachella for billionaires. And this year, pretending to care about climate change was top of the agenda, so they had Greta Thunberg headlining. She’s this teenage girl who’d become famous even though everything she says is depressing. Kind of like Billie Eilish.
Meanwhile in America, President and experimental pig-man Donald Trump faces the 407th most historic crisis of his presidency.
Polarization is the problem of our age. And not just in America, in the actual world too. Whether the debate is over Trump or Brexit or science or gender, God help us, or reality itself, no two factions can agree, or agree to disagree, or even agree that their disagreement might be disagreeable.
Look, things wasn’t always this way. I’ve studied human behavior long enough to get sick of it. You gotta remember, most folks are still neighborly, Ned Flanders. Unfuckably nice. But right now, the edges are rougher than ever. On the right, you got shit-nose extremists wondering aloud whether Hitler was all bad and inventing their own clown-house reality. And on the left, you got fucking whiney woke-lords cancelling the shit out of anyone who dares to take a dump at the wrong time of the day. And both sides, both sides look so unhappy it makes you wanna puke. But the way it’s going, you know we’re gonna end up on one side or the other. So, pick your fucking team and hunker the fuck down.
Right now, it takes about six months’ exposure to social media for the average person to become hopelessly radicalized. We’re hoping to get that down to five minutes.
Trump seemed to feel that the virus was one of those things that goes away if you ignore it, like a wasp or a wife.
By the end of March, lockdowns have been rolled out right across the planet, making them the most successful global franchise since the Marvel cinematic universe.
It was so quiet you could actually hear yourself think. I expect.
The Prime Minister Boris Johnson was taken to intensive care when he suffered the effects of coronavirus. With the Brexit PM in a critical condition, 52% of the nation holds its breath. There was a real fear that at a time of national crisis the Prime Minister might have to be replaced by someone less qualified than him. Which would be impossible. Unless they were drawing up plans to replace him with a sock or a balloon or something. Just as the Prime Minister might exit the realm of the living, a process known as Prexit, hospital staff nurse him back to health, and weeks later he’s back on the job. Incredibly, the virus didn’t seem to have affected his abilities in any way. He still didn’t have any.
Someone from my PTA WhatsApp group shared a link to a documentary which proves that George Soros created the virus in a Chinese lab so that Bill Gates could make a vaccine out of microchips and control us all like we’re in a videogame.
The police have interesting priorities. When George Floyd, one black guy, tried, allegedly, to pass one fake $20 bill in a liquor store, he had four cops on his ass within minutes. And they killed him. Know how long it took the same police department to arrest the prime suspects in that case? Four days. And they had that shit on tape! Did they think that was counterfeit too?
You had corporations going woke too, asking themselves how can they support Black people without actually paying them. Demonstrating their sensitivity by rebranding Ku Klux Krunchies as Rosa Parks Puffs, and so on.
Some white individuals begin to ask whether they’re doing enough personally…Well, I consider myself an ally. I looked within, I felt I could make some changes. So I started small, posting the black squares on Insta. I swapped to only using black emojis for texts. I sent a lot of friend requests to Black people. And I even learned how to pronounce their names. Even if it was difficult. And then I thought, listen, look, I know I care, but do enough other people know that I care? I realized I should up my game, so I posted a video about it.
With no cure for Covid in sight, life for millions has been reduced to a creepy new normal and a seemingly endless series of lockdowns…I live on my own and after a while I got so lonely I developed a multiple personality disorder on purpose so I could keep myself company. But then, of course, I had to try and keep two meters away from myself at all times. Don’t know if you’ve ever tried doing that but it’s a bloody nightmare. So I started doing video calls to keep sociable. I did so many I sometimes glitch in real life now. I just freeze now and then…Can you hear me your end?
I watched so much dumb shit on Netflix during lockdown. You see Floor is Lava, fire and brimstone, the game show? You know they filmed that last year, because in 2020 people wouldn’t even be bothering to try to escape the lava. They’d be lining up to willingly throw themselves in, pausing only to kick their kids in first. Maybe that’s season two.
The fact, which doesn’t care about your feelings, is that online and in the media conservative voices are being silenced. I’ve said this before. I said it on my YouTube channel. I said it on Joe Rogan. On the Jordan Peterson Kayak podcast. I said it on Tucker Carlson. Twice actually. And I said it in my New York Times bestseller, Conservative Voices Are Being Silenced. It’s a point I have to make over and over because conservative voices are being silenced. In fact, you won’t even use this footage.
The history books covering this deeply profoundly stupid period will have to be written in crayon. By a dog.
Having another lockdown was really annoying because I’d watched literally all of Netflix during the first lockdown. But then I got into this show called America, which was amazing. Have you seen it? It’s on the news channel. It’s totally mental. Just one twist after another. They had this sort of election fight happening between a bloke who looked like a ticket inspector on a ghost train and an inflatable orange maniac who didn’t seem to be dealing with the plague. Everybody hated everybody else, and the whole country was on fire. Not just the forests but the towns and cities. In fact the only thing that wasn’t on fire was the fucking sea, and that was probably thinking about it.
Traditionally by now the loser would congratulate the victor, but Trump doesn’t know the meaning of the word “concede,” and he was furious when they told him.
My God. There were so many discrepancies. I mean, listen, according to the records there were dead people who voted for Biden, which is impossible because ghosts cannot hold pencils. They said there were more mail ballots than ever. What about female ballots? The voting machines in Michigan were wirelessly controlled by Hunter Biden’s laptop. Georgia’s not even a real state. There’s no record of it existing before November. Jet fuel does not burn that hot. That was a controlled demolition. Trump not winning is a statistical impossibility like snow in winter or a duck that can’t talk. The total lack of evidence proves there’s been a cover-up! And the whole election never even happened. CNN made it look like it did using Deep State CGI. It’s all a lie. And if that’s what democracy looks like, then count me out. Actually, don’t count me at all because that would be democracy again. And I want no part of it.
The one good thing about Trump refusing to concede was that we got to watch him lose over and over. All those doomed legal efforts? It was like watching a man fall from a skyscraper trying to sue the sidewalk out of existence before he hit the ground.
Trump himself may have been voted out, but the movement behind him persists. America remains trapped in a loveless marriage with itself.
2020 challenged humanity on a scale like no other. A year of tumult, upheaval, outrage, insult, disaster, lava, and division.