Living memories: 2020 and remembering the future

Mid-November 2020 and Tesco releases its Christmas ad (brought to life below). One month to the festive season, but the horizon of possible scenarios is still open. It doesn’t feel like one month. It feels like a distant future.

In a ‘normal’ year, thinking about Christmas is not wondering, hesitating, creating behaviours. Christmas is solid. It is always. It is re-creating, re-doing, recollecting. Thinking ahead about Christmas is remembering. The songs, the lyrics, the childhood. To expect the coming Christmas is to bring back memories of any other Christmas in the past and the future.

In fact, Christmas does not know the past nor the future. It is the opposite of news. It happens in the cyclic time, for the community culture and for the marketing. In any ‘normal’ year. Which is not this one.

Mid-November and the in-one-month future is still unknown, yet the Tesco’s ad brings back shared memories. Only, they aren’t shared memories of the other Christmas. They are shared memories of the 2020.

The terrible haircuts. The loo rolls. The home schooling. The ‘Happy Birthday’ while washing hands.

Tesco’s No Naughty List Ad

As with any other approaching Christmas, the future resembles the past. Only, this time it is not the past Christmas, it is the past of 2020, the past of the linear time, the history. The direction of the projected memory is different, it is not vertical, not across the calendar years. However, the vector of time, the mechanism stays the same: from the present to the future, and from the future to the past. Back home.

To go back is to be comfortable. To walk the known path. Once there is a memory, there is a past and the past is closed. To have a past, to remember is to survive.

That’s the promise of Tesco. One day the 2020 will be remembered, not lived.

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Image: Dominika Kopeć

In the casual thinking, the past is closed, known and, contrary to the future, predictable. Nothing more questionable in 2020. Once the 2020 gets labelled as the ‘different’, the ‘odd’, the ‘unpredictable’, it creates the ‘normal’, the ‘normality’ and it does not construct it in the future. It re-constructs it in the past. In 2019.

2020 is not a year, it is not a time period. It is an emotion. When I say ‘2020’, you know. You feel it. And once you feel ‘2020’, you feel the ‘2019’. 2020 becomes horrible and 2019 becomes the idyllic. 2020 becomes universal, one, the same for everybody, 2019 becomes universal too. Black and white, war and peace, the beast and the beauty. What in this setting will be the 2021? Obviously, the 2019. The one we’re looking forward to. The normal. The Christmas as we know.

When does the 2020 become a myth? Potentially very soon, as soon as it is announced as ‘the year’. Unlike other epoch-making events it is broadcasted live, instantly, in the real time. Still, it does not start at once in all regions. When in March 2020 you are not in lockdown, it feels like you are not in the lockdown yet. March is the most dynamic month of the year. Countries close one after another and while the year is labelled as unpredictable, the public eye turns to Italy. Italy’s past becomes your future. So, again paradoxically while looking into the future, one looks backwards, into the past.

Unless you look at Wuhan. Nobody thought of China to become the future.

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Image: Dominika Kopeć

March is the most dynamic month of the year. Slavoj Žižek publishes his book about the pandemic on the 24th of March. In March, the 2020 becomes an unprecedented media phenomenon which shapes people’s consciousness and behaviour. The terrible haircuts. The loo rolls. The home schooling. The ‘Happy Birthday’ while washing hands. 2020 becomes an image first and then becomes a fact.

With its symbols and attributes, the 2020 becomes a memory before it is experienced. What is good about a memory? It is closed, it is known, it is survived. As soon as it outbreaks, 2020 is thought of as a turning point in the history and it is treated like one from the very beginning. A historian’s point of view is to look back, from the present to the past, starting from the end of a story. What is the end of the story? It used to be the magical 2021 at the beginning of this year. In November, the time frame exceeds into the unknown.

The government of Germany travels further in time and mid-November releases a spot, which takes the perspective of the in-fifty-years future. This seems like a safe bet. Maybe not next year, maybe not in two years, but in fifty years the 2020 will be over. This is solid. Current millennials will become heroes and will re-collect the 2020 as their story, in pompous tone calling it ‘back then’. 2020 will be remembered and will be remembered as nothing, laziness, chilling out.

Of course, this video is fun. Maybe in fifty years all this will be fun.

To follow work of the Grey Swan Guild and read more analysis of this kind, visit www.greyswanguild.org. You’re welcome to join as a sensemaker as well. The guild is also making a clartion call to others to cast an eye on positive outcomes that might have come out out of this 2020 in our 2nd Weathervane Panel. Chime in your own thoughts about the future.

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The Weathervane 2 — Grey Swan Guild

About the author:

Dominika Kopeć is a UX researcher, anthopologist and start-ups mentor. Lived and worked in Estonia, Czech Republic, Belgium and in the UK. Feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn.

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