YES IT REALLY REALLY REALLY COULD HAPPEN [298]

On Wednesday 12th May 2021, I had my first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. For the record, it was the Pfizer one, but all currently in use have been deemed safe and effective. Naturally, I hope that everyone that is offered one will take it, for the long-term benefits of vaccination against a deadly disease sure do outweigh the couple of days of discomfort immediately following it. Think of it like taking a holiday, for that is when most people are likely to need some sort of injection – no-one wants to contract yellow fever on their two-week break in Thailand. 

In taking a COVID-19 vaccine, the attitude I am taking is that I want a holiday from history: I want there to be a time when life calms down, we can breathe out, and we can enjoy a new normality for a while. 

 

I picked up this term from “The 90s: A Holiday from History,” an episode of BBC Radio 4’s “Archive on 4” broadcast in 2017. Written and presented by Jonathan Freedland, the programme looks at how the 1990s is recalled as a relative period of calm: the Cold War ended, apartheid ended in South Africa, peace was achieved in Northern Ireland, and the news was dominated by the OJ Simpson trial, royal divorce and Britpop. However, the forces that formed the following decades was formed in the 1990s: the anti-European Union stance in British politics that led to Brexit; the rise of Russia and China, leading to, well, leaders like Donald Trump; and the rise of the internet as an appliance to which everything is now attached, relying on its survival.

 

“Holiday from history” also evokes the title of a book that has been considered a postmodern text: “The End of History and the Last Man,” by Francis Fukuyama, which argued in 1992 that prevailing of liberal democracy at the end of the Cold War indicated that a major line of progression in human history had ended, having arrived at the final accepted form of governance. Despite the provocative title, the hypothesis is that events will continue to occur following the end of history, but the evolutionary process that makes history will have ended.

 

Fukuyama’s argument has been constantly challenged following those events, not least by the 2001 New York terrorist attack, the resurgence of Russia and China, and the perceived political decay, leading to crony capitalism and civil decay. Indeed, in 2017 Fukuyama was telling “The Washington Post” of his fears of liberal democracy going backward following the election of Donald Trump.

 

What I hope is that, with the 1990s having been my formative years, the 2020s might eventually afford us all a similar break to gather ourselves. If we didn’t reach the end of history, there is the feeling that the COVID-19 pandemic has either ended or begun a chapter, one that affords us some time to think.

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