This article originally appeared on VICE Asia.
If 2020 were a song, it would be the sound of a toilet flushing away the soggy remains of last night’s dinner. Many would agree that it has been a bona fide shitstorm, and it’s only June.
We started the year worrying about the possibility of World War III, and now we’re grappling with a full-blown pandemic, an economic downturn comparable to the Great Recession, and the challenge of overcoming systematic racism.
Below, is a summary of some of the most important events that happened this year. Some remain realities today, but others feel like such a lifetime ago, it’s hard to imagine that we had to deal with them in just the last five months.
World War III Fears
When top Iranian Commander Qassem Soleimani was assassinated in a United States airstrike on January 3, Tehran vowed to take revenge and the world braced itself for World War III. Political analysts envisioned how such a war would look like, and nihilistic memes abounded online.
Harry and Meghan Quit
On January 8, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle announced their desire to quit the Royal Family, saying that they wanted to become financially independent, sparking what netizens called a #royalcrisis.
Taal Volcano Eruption in the Philippines
The Taal Volcano in Batangas, Philippines erupted on January 12. Located in the middle of a lake just south of Metro Manila, many parts of the capital and nearby provinces experienced ash fall that blanketed cars and roads with grey particles. Residents of towns near the volcano were evacuated and returned weeks later to an ash-covered wasteland.
When the news of the novel coronavirus was first reported from Wuhan in December 2019, the city became the first epicentre of a pandemic the world was not prepared for. Cases increased rapidly in January, with initial reports only coming from China. Countries like Italy and South Korea eventually emerged with their own rise in cases, followed by many more around the world.
By March, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the COVID-19 outbreak a global pandemic, and most countries established lockdowns. Many continue to try to manage the virus today, to varying success.
Kobe Bryant’s Death
On January 26, Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant was killed in a helicopter crash, along with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven other people on board. The tragedy sent shockwaves to people around the world. Celebrities took to social media to mourn the passing of the basketball legend, while heartbroken fans honoured him in tributes online.
Brexit Finally Happened
After years of negotiations and drama, Brexit finally happened on January 31. The United Kingdom officially left the European Union but braced itself for yet more negotiations in the years to come.
Parasite Makes History
There were some wins in 2020. Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite made history by becoming the first foreign language film to take home Best Picture at the Oscars. It also won Best International Feature Film, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Director.
Violence in Delhi Over Citizenship Amendment Act
India's Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), which was passed in late 2019, would allow people of certain religions from neighbouring countries to become Indian citizens. However, Muslims were exempted from this, leading many to protest it for being "anti-Muslim."
Between February 22 and February 27, protests over the CAA led to communal violence in northeast Delhi, wherein mobs attacked Muslim neighbourhoods in a frenzied state. At least 53 people died in the violence.
Tokyo 2020 Olympics Postponed
In late March, the Summer Olympics were officially postponed. The Games were set to take place in Tokyo this July, but were suspended amid coronavirus fears. While Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said that the Olympics and Paralympics might be held in the summer of 2021, medical experts aren’t so optimistic.
The Rise of Tiger King
Netflix series Tiger King blew up as people started to quarantine at home in March. The wildly fascinating docu series about the flamboyant big cat breeder Joe Exotic inspired elaborate character analyses, a disappointing bonus episode, and a whole lot of memes.
UFO Videos Released
On April 27, the U.S. Navy officially released three videos that were apparently the most famous UFO videos of all time, confirming that there were indeed some strange encounters in the sky. The videos were previously published by the New York Times and former Blink-182 singer Tom DeLonge’s UFO research group, To the Stars Academy. Amid everything that has happened this year, news of UFOs went by relatively unnoticed.
Kim Jong-un’s Death Rumours
In April, rumours of Kim Jong-un’s death started spreading like wildfire, after it was reported that he had undergone heart surgery. After 20 days of intense speculation, talks of succession, and cheeky memes, the North Korean leader reappeared at a fertiliser factory, putting the rumours to rest.
George Floyd Protests and the Black Lives Matter Movement
On May 25, 46-year-old George Floyd, a Black man, died after a white police officer kneeled on his neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds in Minneapolis. His death sparked nationwide protests against racism and police brutality, as well as parallel protests across the world.
Social media has also become a collage of activism. While there exist questionable performances of solidarity, there are also valuable resources and riveting calls for action, as well as visual documentation of the monumental protests.
Hong Kong’s National Security Law
China's National People Congress passed a national security law that would dramatically increase Beijing's political control over Hong Kong. The law was accompanied by other developments that many fear will further erode Hong Kongers' political freedoms, such as the passing of a bill that criminalises disrespect for the Chinese national anthem, as well as a ban on the annual June 4 vigil that has been held every year since the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre. Against the backdrop of Beijing's tightening control over the city, a socially distanced vigil happened anyway.
The Philippines’ Anti-Terrorism Bill
In June, the Philippine Congress approved an anti-terror bill which would allow the government to charge its critics as terrorists. This follows other threats to free speech and press freedom in the country, like the shut down of the Philippine's largest news network ABS-CBN. A few weeks later, veteran journalist Maria Ressa was convicted of cyber libel charges, a verdict many believe to be politically motivated.
Besides throwing a “party” to protest the Anti-Terrorism Bill, Filipino activists are using social media to convey their message through powerful images and artwork.