2020 was a blessing, not a curse

We’ve all heard people lamenting 2020’s unluckiness, but have you considered that perhaps this year was the wake-up call we needed?

Caroline Gans, Associate Editor

The general consensus on the year of 2020 seems to be fairly straightforward: it hasn’t been good. In fact, so many bad things happened this year that it’s hard to remember them all. Aside from the ever-prominent Covid-19, this year also brought horrible natural disasters, heightened political and racial divisions, and the sad deaths of beloved figures such as Alex Trebek and Kobe Bryant.

It’s easy to blame all these things on bad luck, and to some degree, that’s a valid thing to do. It certainly was horrible luck for Kobe Bryant and his family that the helicopter he was in crashed, just as it was bad luck for Alex Trebek and his family when his struggle with pancreatic cancer tragically led to his death. Heartbreaking things happen every year, and unfortunately, 2020 was no exception.

It’s true, I cannot deny that 2020 wasn’t a lucky year. However, I firmly believe that there was more to this year’s troubles than bad luck. As science fiction writer Robert A. Heinlein put it: “

There is no such thing as luck; there is only adequate or inadequate preparation to cope with a statistical universe.”

— Robert A. Heinlein

By that line of logic, 2020’s “bad luck” was nothing more than a manifestation of a world ill-equipped to deal with the issues that it brought upon itself. That’s probably confusing right now, but allow me to explain.

Take the Australian Bushfires, for example. Some might say that fires in hot, dry climates like Australia’s and California’s are inevitable, and if they’re especially bad one year, that it can be chalked up to bad luck. Upon further inspection, though, you’ll find that climate change boosted the risk of fire-starting conditions by at least 30%, if not more. Climate change has absolutely nothing to do with bad luck, but it has everything to do with science and greenhouse gas emissions.

The same logic can be applied to almost all of the perceived bad luck of 2020. Nationwide riots? Pressure from the deaths of unarmed Black people in police custody built up over a long period of time; it certainly was not random bad luck. Coronavirus? While its onset this year was bad luck, its pervasiveness in our country today is not. Had we handled it like countries such as Taiwan did, there is a good chance that life would be back to normal or at least close to it by now. Political strife? Suffice it to say that the political climate in 2020 was anything but normal due to election year stress enhanced by especially polarizing candidates.

Despite all these things, despite the reasonable explanations for almost every single thing that went wrong this year, people continue to chalk it all up to bad luck. Why is that?

I can’t speak for others, but speaking on my own behalf, I blame bad luck because it’s just easier. It’s easier to point to luck as the culprit of something than to address the fact that there are deeper causes and reasons at play. By just blaming everything on bad luck, we allow ourselves to put off the day when we will have to confront even more fissures (perhaps even the same ones) in the very near future.

On top of being the calamity that it was, 2020 also has the potential to be a wonderful thing: a much needed wakeup call. If we keep blaming things on bad luck, then we’ll have a thousand more worst-year-evers. However, if we take 2020 as what it was (a call to action) then we have the opportunity to make a positive change.

So what does that change need to be? On a personal level, there are steps we can all take to improve the quality of life for us and those around us. Try to adopt a more sustainable way of life by carpooling, taking public transportation, and thrifting clothes. Recognize that the political situation in our country will never calm down if you don’t make a genuine effort to be civil about your beliefs. Do what you can to tackle these large-scale issues in your own life, and then kick it up a notch. Call your congressman, organize a fundraiser of a protest (socially distanced, of course) and make a change. It’s up to all of us to make sure 2021 isn’t the next 2020.

This year could go down in history as one of the worst years in history, or it could signify a turning point towards a better future. It has the potential to be a blessing, so let’s do everything in our power to bring that to fruition.