HAJI MOHAMED DAWJEE: 2020 - the year of the Karen and complaining


2020. The year of lockdowns, death, earthquakes, the US election and a pandemic – to name only a few curveballs that this year threw at the world.

It all began with staying home. Thinking. Finding new hobbies, new ways to entertain your children.

It started with Zoom calls and meetings over other video conference call providers because no one could go into the office.

It started with gratitude about the fact that you never had to wear any pants on these meetings.

In the beginning, there were inventions, puzzles, crosswords, knitting for the needy, PPE distributions and lots and lots of Twitter chatter about the incompetence of governments around the world. But to be fair, also a lot of praise for several countries who took excellent measures and handed the doom and gloom quite well.

There were still shootings in the US, killing innocent black people, Boris Johnson is still the prime minister of England and Brexit is still real.

Racism has not disappeared and in fact, this year blessed us with one of the world’s greatest memes based on a stereotype of an actual white woman, the Karen.

Debates happened online, more than ever before, no one could have real-life tussles in a bigoted Cape Town restaurant, for example, and some took the opportunity to stage performance art and call it activism because boredom makes people do very, very weird things.

Including forgetting what moral principles are and what ethical messaging is and what the hell the difference is between squatting when you’re a middle-class person who has a home and trying to advocate for who knows what because it’s been a mad year and we’ve forgotten or become totally overwhelmed about what to be mad about anymore.

Some of us have resorted to professional couch-potatoing, the loud-mouthed Twitterati seem to have become the silent muddy backwaters of Mordor.

I’m sure they’re just waiting to erupt at something, but can’t because in order for that to happen, they need someone to post something that makes them super cross and so they can take a ‘stand’, when in fact plenty of stands can be taken without performative activism on Twitter.

One can only hope that these people have spent their weekends reading the work of Baldwin, Lourde, Angelou, Morrison, Hughes and others. They haven’t.

And just when we though the tides had turned and being upset all the time had finally taken its toll, enter Nigella Lawson, kitchen goddess with her controversial toast smothering away all hope of a final silence from the peanut gallery.

All peanuts, especially the British ones, who are so terribly wearied about being mucked around by an idiot government during a pandemic, clutched their pearls in pure outrage at Lawson’s 5-minute insert of how to butter the perfect slice of toast.

Some feel absolutely insulted by the fact that they need a toast tutorial. Toast, of course, being a staple in the British diet. Hell, they put anything on it. Beans, Marmite, beans, spaghetti, beans, chips, beans. So to watch a 5-minute explainer on how to butter toast – the bare minimum of toast talents - was utterly demeaning.

But here’s the kicker. Nigella butters her toast twice. TWICE! Once when it just pops out, and then a few minutes later, adding just a sprinkle of salt. The nerve of this woman.

Out poured the rage from Buckingham to Brixton, from Brighton to Birmingham. All of England banding together against the “butter it twice” method.

Just when we finally thought we’d run out of things to be so very, very cross about (well, not run out, of course there are things to cross about, but 2020 has just drained us all of the willingness to engage with more rage), along came the two times butter, one times salt toast debacle and honestly, Nigella, I don’t know whether to thank you for this new wave of human emotion, or to drown you in batter.

We were just starting to settle quite nicely into the grimness of the world, to go gently into the good night, before you decided to stir things up again

Haji Mohamed Dawjee is a South African columnist, disruptor of the peace and the author of 'Sorry, Not Sorry: Experiences of a brown woman in a white South Africa'. Follow her on Twitter.

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