The Worst Is Yet To Come

JB Shreve
8 min readOct 3, 2020


We have grown uncomfortably numb to the waves of crisis in 2020, but the end is not in sight.

One month from today, the US will vote in the long-anticipated US elections. On November 3, everything will change. Or will it?

Much of America, if not the world, is enduring this terrible year through a posture that amounts to little more than holding our breath. There is a subtle operating assumption; if we can only make it to November 3, everything will be better, relief will come, and the worst will be over.

That hope is unreasonable. There is no reason to believe that. The unfolding pattern of our current history suggests we are moving toward something worse — not something better.

· January 1 — One million protesters in Hong Kong march against the National Security Law. The protesters fear it will lead to greater Chinese suppression of freedom and democracy in Hong Kong. By May, the National Security Law is in place, and the protests are forgotten.

· January 2 — The government of Australia declares a state of emergency due to massive brushfires sweeping areas of the continent. An estimated 500 million animals are killed in the fires.

· January 3 — A US drone strike in Baghdad kills Iranian hero and general Qasem Soleimani

· January 5 — Turkey announces it plans to deploy troops to take part in the Libyan Civil War.

· January 8 — In retaliation for the assassination of Soleimani, Iran fires ballistic missiles at the Baghdad airport. While initial concerns of World War III are overblown in the aftermath of the strikes, it is learned that Iran accidentally shot down a Ukrainian civilian airliner, killing all 176 people aboard.

The chaos consuming our attention around the world in 2020 is not the result of Donald Trump. It is not an American phenomenon or even a political phenomenon. The system is being stretched and strained at all ends. Unprecedented crisis is the crucial phrase of 2020, and that phrase is attaching itself to every facet of the global order; economic, political, geopolitical, climate… the list goes on. This dreadful year is transitioning the globe from what was to what will now be, but many citizens of the world are still living in a fantasy that things will work out well — because they always worked out before.

· January 15 — The US House of Representatives votes to send impeachment articles against President Trump to the Senate.

· January 26 — NBA superstar Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter die in a helicopter crash.

· January 30 — The World Health Organization (WHO) declares a mysterious virus surging in China is a public health emergency of international concern.

· January 31 — The United Kingdom begins its exit from the European Union in the long-awaited culmination of the 2016 Brexit vote.

· February 4 — President Trump delivers the State of the Union address, while Nancy Pelosi stands behind him and rips a copy of the speech in half.

· February 11 — The WHO names the Chinese virus COVID19.

· February 23 — Ahmaud Arbery is shot and killed while jogging in Georgia.

· February 29 — The first American coronavirus death is recorded. More than 213,000 will follow in the next ten months.

· March 8 — Italy initiates a national quarantine and lockdown to fight COVID19 as Europe becomes the epicenter of the growing outbreak.

· March 9 — A price war erupts between Russia and Saudi Arabia, causing oil prices to plummet. It is the biggest fall in oil prices since 1991.

· March 11 — The WHO declares COVID19 a Global Pandemic. Borders across Europe are locked down. The US shuts down air travel to Europe. The global economy is frozen.

· March 12 — Stock markets around the world crash.

· March 13 — Breonna Taylor is shot and killed by police in Louisville.

· March 19 — The Dow Jones Industrial Average sinks to depths lower than even Black Monday that triggered the Great Depression in 1929.

History has a certain level of momentum built into it. That momentum creates a measure of predictability that civilization plans through. Historical momentum is understood in the best of times but frequently missed in the worst of times. We keep thinking it will get better, but everything in the historical momentum of 2020 is saying the opposite. If things are to improve, there has to be some new force that shifts the trajectory we are spinning toward.

No such force has arrived.

· March 24 — A third of the global population, 2.6 billion people, face some level of pandemic lockdown or restriction.

· March 26 –The US surpasses China and Italy to become host to the world’s largest number of COVID19 infections.

· March 30 — Hospital ships arrive in New York harbor to aid with the surging pandemic that has overwhelmed the city.

· April 2 — There are now 1 million confirmed cases of COVID19 worldwide. The number will grow to 35 million in the next six months.

· April 10 — The Democratic Republic of the Congo announces new Ebola cases in an outbreak that began in 2019 but was believed to be under control. Meanwhile, the US becomes the first nation to report 2,000 coronavirus deaths in a single day.

· April 14 — President Trump announces the US is suspending funding of the WHO. The International Monetary Fund anticipates the most significant worldwide economic contraction since the Great Depression.

· April 15 — Armed protesters march on the Michigan capital over the lockdown measures.

· April 19 — The deadliest massacre in modern Canadian history occurs in Nova Scotia, leaving 23 dead.

· April 20 — Anti-lockdown protests begin to erupt in several major European cities.

· May 8 — US unemployment nears 15%.

· May 9 — Chinese and Indian soldiers clash at a disputed point along their border.

· May 12 — Gunmen storm a hospital in Kabul and kill 24, including two infants. Later that same day, 32 are killed by a bombing at a funeral.

For ten months, the world has waited for a voice, some demonstration of leadership, a figure, or idea we can rally around. It has not come. We hope in the future but have no plan in the present.

The once trusted powers and institutions that guided us now sit bewildered and helpless as the rest of us. From the US government, the World Health Organization to the European Union, the great powers at the beginning of the year are holding their breath alongside their followers, waiting for the end of the year to come. Worldwide, there is no plan, no strategy, no agreement, no reasonable basis for hope in the future. We all believe we will survive, but we do not have a plan for how survival will be accomplished.

Meanwhile, the world continues to sink into the abyss of chaos, crisis, and dire headlines that no longer surprise us.

· May 18 — Nearly 1 million people are affected by flooding in Somalia.

· May 19 — Palestinian leadership announces termination of all agreements with Israel.

· May 21 — Cyclone Amphan hits eastern India and Bangladesh, forcing the evacuation of 4 million people. It is the costliest cyclone ever recorded in the North Indian Ocean.

· May 24 — A once in a decade storm hits the coast of Western Australia.

· May 26 — Protest, violence, and looting over the killing of George Floyd break out across the US then around the world.

· June 1 — Protesters are cleared from a park near the White House with pepper spray while President Trump poses for a photo op with a Bible.

· June 3 — Cyclone Nisarga hits Mumbai, the first time a tropical storm has targeted the city since 1891.

· June 4 — Vladimir Putin declares a state of emergency after 20,000 tons of oil leaks into the Ambarnaya River in the Arctic Circle.

· July 2 — A landslide in Myanmar kills 172.

· July 8 — In Burkina Faso, 180 bodies are found in a mass grave. Experts suspect government involvement in mass extrajudicial shootings.

· July 12 — Massive flooding in China leaves more than 125 dead and thousands of homes damaged.

· August 4 — A massive explosion in Beirut kills over 220 people.

· August 9 — Protests erupt in Belarus after the fraudulent reelection of Aleksandr Lukashenko.

Ten months into 2020, we are riding a wave of historical momentum into something.

Historically, dark eras of transition provided an environment for opportunist leaders to ascend. The fascists of Europe during the Great Depression. The Bolsheviks in the Russian Revolution. Napoleon. Mao Zedong. In the absence of leadership, the people begin to trust any loud voice that says it has a plan, even better if they have a scapegoat to blame our present misery.

· August 15 — After a Japanese oil tanker breaks up on a reef, more than 1,000 tons of oil spill into the ocean off of Mauritius. It is the worst environmental disaster in the country’s history.

· August 18 — A military coup overthrows the president of Mali.

· August 23 — Riots break out after the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

· August 26 — Two people are fatally shot during riots in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Category 4 Hurricane Laura makes landfall along the Gulf.

· September 6 — A new record for lands burned by wildfires is set in California. In Oregon, 10% of the state’s population is fleeing wildfires.

· September 16 — Hurricane Sally brings catastrophic flooding to the southern US.

· September 18 — Ruth Bader Ginsburg dies.

· September 27 — Deadly clashes nearing the state of war erupt between Azerbaijan and Armenia in the Southern Caucasus.

· September 29 — The global death total for COVID 19 surpasses 1 million.

There is no reason to believe the crisis and chaos will halt on November 3. The darkest days may not be behind us. They may be just ahead.

· October 1 — President Donald Trump tests positive for COVID19.

· October 2 — The US national debt surpasses $27 trillion for the first time in history.



JB Shreve

Current events. History. International relations. Global crisis/chaos.