Here we are, looking at 2022 in the rearview mirror, as they say, and I am pretty sure that it was not what we expected. At first glance, it might look like the proverbial train wreck, but a closer look reveals some very good happenings indeed.
I don’t know about you, but at the end of 2021, I was quite full of optimism for what lay ahead in 2022 - even if we hadn’t (and probably may never) beat COVID, the world was learning how to live with it and was once again opening up for employment, family get togethers, large events, and travel. In short, life seemed to be getting back to some semblance of normality.
But, within a couple of months, an event occurred that we didn’t realize at the time would change the world as we knew it. Russia decided to invade Ukraine with the plan of brazenly seizing the eastern portion of the country in an escalation of a war that had been in the works for years. Naively, I think we all hoped and thought that this would be brief, and isolated to that one region, but here we are, almost a year later, and we have come to recognize the impact of this war, not just on Ukraine, but on the entire world. It's difficult to determine the exact number of lives lost as different sources provide different numbers (sometimes depending on the motive of the source), but suffice it to say that thousands have been killed (both military and civilian). Then there is the physical injury, the displacement of innocents, and the material damage to homes and cities and basic infrastructure. And it is pretty much impossible to calculate the collateral emotional damage to both Ukrainian and Russian citizens of losing loved ones and enduring the tragedy of war. One internet site that might be most accurate and useful is UNRIC.org, the United Nations site which provides ongoing information about the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Countries have had to decide where their allegiances lie and just how, and how much, to support Ukraine’s war effort. It seems like a big game of choices and risks with harsh real world consequences - the possibility that the very thing we value the most, freedom and democracy, just might be at stake.
So, in 2022, the effects of both COVID and the war in Ukraine rippled throughout the world. It doesn't need research to point out the 'negatives' of 2022 - material shortages, inflation, high prices, the struggles of the poverty stricken and lower income earners, huge financial expenditures as countries are trying to help out the world itself, workplace discontent, vast shortages in health care at the same time that new strains of flu are arising, and protests that got out of hand . And then there are the issues for which we can’t blame COVID or the war such as natural disasters, concern for our natural environment, ongoing nonsensical violence, challenges to human rights, and the revelation of misconduct in some of our institutions that we once held in such high esteem. Even the recent inane focus on social media platforms by one of the richest people in the world affects us.
Yes, 2022 will be studied in history classes for years to come.
But, if you know me, the glass is always at least half full. It might take a little more digging to find the good news of 2022, but it’s there.
First of all, good things can come out of tragedy. I think the war in Ukraine has been an eye opener to the world. We have smartened up to the risks of authoritarianism and dictatorships. Countries are realizing that we can’t be so dependent on others for our own well-being. We need to be proactive in producing our own products and our own energy in many forms and in protecting our own security and democracy. At the same time, we realize that countries have to be united for just causes and contribute however we can. It’s made us think of the fragility of the world and the need to be grateful for what we have and for what people fought so hard to achieve in centuries past and to be sure we preserve what we have taken for granted and never return to those dark days. And it’s taught us about toughness and resilience (the Ukrainians have that in buckets). This is a very good education.
Then there are positive events that keep occurring right under our noses, despite the existing wars and hardships. I encourage you to do a search on positive news in 2022. There is lots of it. Some good sites are www.positive.news "What went right in 2022: the top 25 good news stories of the year" or www.goodgoodgood.co "The Best Good News Stories From 2022 . . . So Far" or even the good old www.readersdigest.ca "Good News Stories From Around the World". In general terms, the focus remains on climate change and alternate ways of doing things that are more friendly to our natural world. Toxic plastics are becoming passe, transportation and manufacturing are finding new methods to power themselves, some animal species are making a comeback, we are recognizing the sacredness of our natural lands, and we are making reparations where reparations are due. Medical advances continue such as the latest news on Alzheimer’s and cancer treatment.
Human rights and equality remain in the forefront. Think of the women protesting in Iran and the first woman to officiate a FIFA World Cup game. LGBTQ rights are strengthening, work/life balance is becoming a thing, challenges are being made to people who want to overthrow our hard-won human rights, and some institutions (such as Gymnastics Canada and Hockey Canada) are being held accountable for misconduct. There is still obviously work to do in all of these areas and still downfalls, but as long as we keep making small progress in all of these areas, that is positive news.
And then, of course, we can’t forget the smaller good news stories that might not change the world but might have changed someone’s world. The neighbour who shovelled your walk or baked you some cookies, the random stranger who saved a life, the firefighters who saved the moose fallen in the frozen lake, the kids in your family who sang at a Christmas concert, the local initiatives to help the under-privileged, the community who came together to help people stranded by winter storms, the goats who are hired to trim the grass at the local nature centre, the repurposed throw-away items that become useful, the friend who keeps in touch, favourite books that are shared, the ugly fruits and vegetables that become a great meal . . . the list goes on and on.
And then there are simply feel-good stories such as the 95 and 96 year olds who won Grammy awards this year for musical achievements (that’s amazing – there is still lots of time for us boomers). And remember another 96 year old - Queen Elizabeth – her memorial services literally brought the world together. Despite the sadness, that was definitely a feel-good moment. And we can’t forget, either, the comedian-come-president of the Ukraine who found himself the ’go to’ guy to rally the troops (and the world) and to keep everybody motivated and believing in freedom.
You can find lots of good news if you scroll far enough or if you pause to think for a minute. (By the way, it might be a good idea to pin one of those good new sites for those moments when you need a pick-me-up.)
I’ve been thinking of this whole concept of good news. You know, we don’t have to agree with everything that is termed as ‘good news’, and we might feel that it might not affect us directly – but I think it is the cumulative things that count. It’s the society that makes small gains in all areas – climate change, human rights, equality, culture, accountability – that is well-balanced, healthy, ‘just’, and great.
And just as one negative world event far away can have negative repercussions throughout the world, so can one positive social change in one area initiate positive ripples throughout society.
So, yes, 2022 will go down in the history books as a year that changed society. It’s easy to become caught up in the negatives. But negatives are the catalyst for a society to evolve. It’s called growing pains. Our world is not perfect yet - and never will be. It takes some disruption to shake away the complacency, to recognize that the status quo isn’t necessarily right, and to help us not only see the positives but to work for the positives. And that is only one of the good things coming out of 2022. There’s lots more, if you look.
As the good old Desiderata says, “With all its sham drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.”
Have a Happy New Year!