No-one saw 2020 coming, not in what it was. As Cate Blanchett said, at the start of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, ‘the world is changing’. It has changed. And it won’t change back, no matter how desperate we all have been about getting back what we had until March this year. Because that’s the thing about the world changing: it always does and it never changes back.
And currently the world is heading into the Pit. I don’t mean that in any religious sense. There is no God or god waiting for the moment to resolve it all with a miracle. As Terry Pratchett put it in Mort, ‘there is no justice. There’s just us.’
American heading into Dictatorship of the stupid. Britain scurrying along in its wake. Breaking a treaty and expecting the world to trust us on the basis we keep our word. Belarus falling backwards towards chaos and Russian takeover. The climate isn’t changing after all, he said, coughing from the smoke of the West Coast fires. The isolation we experience. Work friends I haven’t seen in six months because they work from home and I work in the Centre.
But these aren’t the only aspects of 2020, though the good stuff is very limited. Doves have come back, sounding as if it’s still 2008 when I sat up until 4.00am and I near had tears in my eyes, was in almost holy awe, that in my lifetime I had lived to see the day America elected a black President. What an amazing feeling. How unbelievable then. how much more unbelievable now.
And 2020 is the year I finally got into Pogo, Walt Kelly’s blessed, much-loved and much-praised cartoon strip. I’ve tried and failed before. I’ve known of it for decades but couldn’t carry myself over that line. Now I have. Five Collected Volumes. A sixth awaits my next payday, to be put on my birthday pile. I have to live long enough for the other six that will complete the long story to be published. nothing like an incentive.
It’s Walt Kelly that’s prompted this mournful little essay this morning, as I wait for my rigidly enforced appointment for a flu injection . Because funny, acute, perceptive and inventive as Kelly was, he was also wise. And he said something that people quote, unaware that its provenance is a cartoonist. He said it in one line, but this, below, is an expanded version of it, and I quote it here. Kelly was talking about the ecology, but his words are no less applicable to everything that surrounds us today, and why there is only us to save us. If we want to.
“There is no need to sally forth, for it remains true that those things which make us human are, curiously enough, always close at hand. Resolve then, that on this very ground, with small flags waving and tinny blast on tiny trumpets, we shall meet the enemy, and not only may he be ours, he may be us.”