At Home Abroad: The End of the Year That Was
“…. and shut the door after you.”
By Regina Costello
Yep, that’s essentially our farewell to 2020! During this holiday season, our hearts ache for too many families who suffered loss of life during this turbulent year of sickness and civil unrest.
Without a doubt, this year is a turning point in the life of our generation, but in the life of our human history – it’s just another year. The rumbling undercurrents of Mother Nature are camouflaged by the perpetual ebb and flow of the tide, and the unpleasantness of Mankind is cloaked by the grind of everyday life.
Mother Nature has played dirty with humans since the beginning of time, but we have stood our ground and survived much worse than the lousy hand she dealt this year.
Mother Nature’s Wrath
A brief look at her dirty plays unearths some atrocities. The Antonine Plague stole five million lives in 165AD. The Plague of Justinian, also known as the Bubonic Plague, killed twenty-five million. From 1346 to 1353, the Black Death had a death toll of between seventy-five and 200 million. One million lives were lost in the Third Cholera Pandemic in the mid-1800s. The Russian Flu took another million lives in the late 1800s.
And of course, the now well-known Spanish Flu claimed between twenty and fifty million lives in the early 20th century – clearly worth a mention. Let us also note, An Gorta Mór, The Great Hunger, in Ireland in the 19th century, that killed more than one million.
It is reassuring that despite Mother Nature’s wrath, Mankind’s survival ability since ancient times is phenomenal. Keeping in mind that equipped with little or no medicine, no cross-country collaboration, and limited science, we managed not only to survive but also grow steadily from these catastrophes over the centuries.
Given what the human race has endured and survived, I remain optimistic that we will more than survive Covid 19 and turn the corner for real. In some respects, this virus could not have come at a better time.
We have reached stellar points with science and technology that have equipped medicine and therapies to finally arm us with the best fighting chance ever in this latest battle against Mother Nature. I take comfort in the simple solution – because let’s face it, the solution is simple. Wash hands frequently – Keep your distance – And for shamrock’s sake wear a mask.
Do masks really need to come with instructions? Please cover your nose. These solutions, if effectively applied, would work much better and save a lot more lives. The scientific and medical community alike tell us that this is our only shelter until the arrival of a vaccine. While we cannot control the acts of Mother Nature, we can control those of Mankind by protecting each other with full compliance.
Darwin’s Theory of Survival of the Fittest
Darwin’s Theory of Survival of the Fittest has reached an all-time low. Today, survival for many is not necessarily based on the fittest or the need to literally survive. It is based on discriminating against and stomping on ethnic groups that we just don’t like, simply based on the color of skin, country of origin, or by who they call God.
Really, have our better angels abandoned us? We are the cruelest animal on the planet. As of May 2020, active armed conflicts existed in many countries, including Afghanistan, Yemen, Syria, Mexico, Turkey, Somalia, the Maghreb and Sahel Regions of North Africa, Iraq, and Libya. War is war and its’ creator is Mankind, not Mother Nature.
Yes, we mask it in the name of religion, economics or political gains. The ultimate goal is power and control. Not survival.
For many of us to feel powerful, we must have someone to control. William James, a Harvard graduate and one of the leading psychologists of the late 19th century, is considered to be one of the most influential thinkers and philosophers of the United States.
His life’s work focused on the relationship between internal states and external behaviors. His thoughts on war and its’ prevalence conclude that it provides positive psychological effects. This is so, because the coming together of many provides a focus and unity to face a threat and to do so unselfishly and honorably.
One can liken Williams’ take on war and apply it to Darwinism. For Darwin, people fought purely to survive, with zero concern for opponents’ ethnicity, color or beliefs.
James adds a new dimension to this for modern times. Much strife in the world in recent centuries is at the creation of human beings and extends well beyond the need to just survive. Much of it is born out of greed and hate for others, not for deviant or threatening behavior.
What seems to drive it, James tells us, is the psychological bond of unity it instills and a purpose for the bullying group. The actions and behavior of the oppressed that include African Americans, Jews, Hispanics and Asians in no way justify the discrimination from other human beings.
The outgoing year saw too much civil unrest against the black community, a faction that has suffered more than any other ethnic group in the world and for the longest period. Mankind can and must do better. The eve of a new year is an opportune time to make a serious dent in that direction.
The World Is a Stage
Sean O’Casey said, “The world’s a stage and most of us are desperately unrehearsed.” An apt description of 2020 in some respects. And so, we will bolt the door shut to another year with shouts of “don’t ever come back!”.
We can hope that when Mankind unbolts the lock to greet 2021 that we will do so with greater hearts and kinder spirits to those around us. We will continue to play ball with Mother Nature. She will have to fight hard as we use shields of science and medicine to win the game at hand.
During this holiday season, I am thinking about the healing that is so very badly needed in my home abroad. I take comfort more than ever in the bosom of my small family, grateful that we are together and well as the holidays approach.
I hope the joys of the Holiday Season will provide respite from recent strife and sadness and with that, a reboot of the best of human nature that is innate in all of us. Wishing you a peaceful Christmas, restful holidays and a happier healthier new year.
*Regina is a Graduate from the National University of Ireland, Galway and a Post Graduate from the National University of Ireland, Dublin. She is the former Curator of the Irish American Archives at the Western Reserve Historical Society, former Executive Director of the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument Commission and former Executive Coordinator of the Northern Ohio Rose Centre. She serves on the Board of Directors of the Mayo Society of Greater Cleveland. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org