By Bill Anderson, local councillor in Mijas

WHAT a year! Are you an optimist, a pessimist, or a realist? As we enter 2021, I think we will be all three in equal measures.

Optimism sees a bright future, pessimism a dark one, whilst the realist will try to live in the moment. Of course, we all want to see a return to something we feel is normal; not the ‘new normal’ that we have been sold by governments.

For me, especially thinking of my work as a local councillor that 2020 has been defined by a fetid combination of Brexit and COVID. You couldn’t make this stuff up. And the result of it all? Society has become polarised, not this time by politics, but by opinions.

I am a great believer that people have a right to their opinions, but as the great Maggie Smith once said of religion, it only becomes a problem when people start shoving in your face.

Dickens couldn’t have put it any more succinctly. “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”

I have seen the best and the worst of people. There has been an abundance of kindness, generosity, sacrifice of people’s time and energy to help those in need, and all this juxtaposed with hate, insults, the deliberate intent of offending those who don’t agree with our view of the world.  I have even been told I am not entitled to an opinion as a public figure. You can guess what my feelings on that are.

So what about 2021?  I am neither political (I know, strange for a local politician) nor am I religious, but what I want for 2021 and wish for the people I love and the people I work with, is a return to tolerance, acceptance, peace, and recognition of what is important in life. We are social animals and our survival hinges on  getting on together and sharing social values: these values that come from deep within ourselves, and are not imposed on us by governments. Values and qualities such as compassion, empathy, tolerance. If these qualities manage to  push their way to the surface, I am optimistic for 2021. If they don’t, well, you can guess.

Let’s also remember that on top of  these artificial conflicts we have busied ourselves with in 2020, people are still dealing with the day to day stresses of making ends meet, chronic illness within families, seeing their dreams crumble, insecurity about the future, loneliness.  If we can’t learn to be kinder to each other, I can only see a dark future for humanity.

I wish you hope, peace, and the energy to confront what 2021 throws at us, but above all that we remember who we are, and start treating others with kindness and generosity, especially when they disagree with us.

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