Jakarta – When the clock struck midnight yesterday night, we waved goodbye not only to 2019, but also to the 2010s, a tumultuous decade so emotionally taxing that many would certainly prefer to opt out if they could.
No major terror attacks happened, no cataclysmic natural disasters occurred apart from the shocking triple disaster in Central Sulawesi (at least not on the scale of the Aceh tsunami in 2004), no major political shift (coup or massive riot) transpired throughout the 2010s in Indonesia, but people generally appeared to be suffering from more anxiety.
Throughout the 2010s, the defining worldwide trend has been deepening polarisation, a clash between liberal ideas of equality and human rights and the nativistic concept of privilege and birthright.
Starting in the middle of the decade, the clash reached its pinnacle in some of the most advanced democracies like the United States and the United Kingdom.
In the US, the stalemate between progressive and conservative movements resulted in the election of Donald Trump, while in the UK the conflict between cosmopolitanism and nationalism yielded Brexit.
Another source of constant worry throughout the 2010s was the sudden realisation that climate does change.
The melting ice cap is now a fact of life as well as extreme weather phenomena like forest fires and typhoons, which now appear with greater intensity.
On the economic front, the 2010s have been trying times for many nations. Over the past 10 years, more than a dozen countries ended up with a lower level of real gross domestic product than they had at the turn of the decade.
The trade war between the US and China only makes things worse.
The International Monetary Fund downgraded its global growth expectation for 2019 to 3 per cent, the lowest since the financial crisis of 2008/2009.
In more ways than one, Indonesia's situation this year mirrored the global trend and was in fact the pinnacle of what has transpired throughout the 2010s.
The bitterly contested 2019 presidential election was the endgame for a battle waged since the 2017 Jakarta gubernatorial election, when faith and ethnicity split voters down the middle.
After the "wasted opportunity" of former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in the previous decade, many expected that President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo could gin up the economy and propel the nation forward, especially with his plan to build more infrastructure and cut red tape.
Yet, economic growth stubbornly hovers at around 5 per cent.
While many contest the view that Indonesia's forest fires are linked to climate change, the area of forest burned this year is almost half the size burned in 2015, when forest fires were at their worst.
As the planet grows warmer and droughts get longer, we can expect the trend to continue.
No one wants to live through another stage of anxiety and we can certainly hope that we can initiate change for the better next year, when we can expect renewal rather than catastrophe. After hitting rock bottom, there's no way but up.
Here's to a prosperous and stable 2020 and the 2020s.
– The Jakarta Post/Asia News Network
[The Jakarta Post is a member of The Straits Times media partner Asia News Network, an alliance of 24 news media organisations.]