Christmas blog Jules Lejeune The Year of Truth
The year that started with high expectations, at the beginning of a promising decade, ends with another lockdown. 2020 did not come out of the twilight, its sound silenced behind the mouthpiece. Was it really real? Or was it just imagination?
Unreal, in any case. Who would have thought a year ago that mouth masks would dominate the European street scene? That we would greet each other with an elbow shot? That cuddling could lead to a criminal record? That there would be shame in talking about walkers on a beautiful day? That showing up at work would be discouraged unless it could not be otherwise? That we would look up in amazement at an aeroplane passing by?
Or that without a negative test we could no longer move freely through Europe? That we would spend more than 80% of our work behind a video link? That students would get their master's degree without knowing what the university looks like inside? That sport, culture and recreation, as binding factor in society, would only be experienced passively?
One would say: in such a surreal world, you no longer need an alternative reality.
As Yuval Noah Harari describes in his masterpiece Sapiens, mankind is distinguished by its ability to transform things in our imagination into a structured religious, political, economic and social reality. In this way we have been able to control not only our own environment, but even our own evolution. With potentially disastrous consequences for our planet as shown by Sir David Attenborough in his Netflix documentary A Life on Our Planet.
2020: a reality check
In that respect, 2020 was a true 'reality check'. On the one hand, there is the increased awareness that the pandemic is a climate change in miniature. Something which, even if it does not grab us by the throat, turns out to be urgent. In this respect, the lessons we are learning from tackling this pandemic are a test case for the Paris 2015 objectives. As Rob Wijnberg, founder of the Dutch journalism collective De Correspondent remarked, ‘climate change is a pandemic in slow motion’.
On the other hand, there is the growing realisation that with the rise of artificial intelligence, the human imagination has also become vulnerable to the power of the algorithm. Another recommendation on Netflix, The Social Dilemma, shows us how we are sucked into our own virtual bubble by our internet behaviour, and only get to see things that match our own perception. If we are forced to lock ourselves up during lockdowns like this, the breeding ground for fake news and conspiracy theories has been laid. Thanks also to the President-Eject, the distinction between 'fact' and 'fake' has become blurred in recent years.
The new normal will never be the same again
Therefore, where 2020 was the year of abrupt change of reality, 2021 will be the year of truth. Are we going to meet again live after the vaccination? Will we seek physical and mental contact again? Will we take the time for verbal and non-verbal communication again? For the exchange of ideas and thoughts? For sharing knowledge? Do we try to reach agreement through dialogue and arguments?
Because that is precisely the power of associations. This year, associations have also moved fast to play the role of critical link between members and third parties by digital means. Associations may have been in lockdown as a physical meeting place this year, but in terms of online connectivity they have gone 'fast forward'. As stated, 2021 will be the year of truth, with the great challenge of finding a new balance between both dimensions. Whatever the case, the essence of associations as the critical factor in society remains: the Power of Connection. Both physical and digital!
The 'new normal' will never be the same again, and we like to contribute to that. On behalf of the staff and management of Lejeune Association Management I wish you much wisdom and truth!
Want to read more about our activities check our Lejeune Inside Winter 2020