The genie is out of the bottle. Isn’t that what people say when you suggest that a new invention or discovery isn’t working out as well as expected? Kind of like when someone in Japan invented fruit sandwiches … or agreed to host the 2020 Olympics.

We can’t put the major achievements of history back in the bottle, but that hasn’t stopped me wanting to tidy away some of the smaller annoyances that 2020 produced. As we have entered another state of emergency in Japan, and in the spirit of New Year’s renewal, we can at least try to make our continued pandemic experience slightly more enjoyable, by un-discovering a little bit of 2020. What follows are a few of my personal suggestions.

1. Urban birdsong on the TV and radio

If I wanted to take in the wildlife, I would live on the edge of a forest or halfway up a mountain. The house prices are much cheaper there. Sure, I could do without Tokyo’s unfathomable habit of ripping up the pavement outside my house at 2 a.m. to fix the water pipes, but I’d rather hear the bustle of lively human activity than the squawks and screeches of little flying dinosaurs. No more stories from reporters walking through city streets devoid of people, marveling at the birds, please.

2. Companies jumping on the pandemic pitch bandwagon

“In these tough new pandemic times, it’s more important than ever to look after yourself. We know it’s hard to stay positive. That’s why we’ve developed a new mask / moisturizer / mobile phone / mouthwash.”

In 2021, I’d like these kinds of commercials to cease, please. Likewise, the sudden panic-buying of natto, yogurt, garlic or other random foods just because some celebrity claims they boost immunity to viruses.

3. Vivid dream chat

“I was in a prison cell because everyone had coronavirus. The bars of the cell were made of soap. And then I became a fish …”

Last year we saw a boom in articles about pandemic dreaming but I reckon your dreams were just as boring last year as they were in 2019. Just because they became more vivid under lockdown, that hasn’t improved their narrative quality. May I suggest cutting back on late night nibbles of cheese?

4. The new tech patricians

I understand a bit of a gap between the rich and the poor, but last year I discovered just how meek the meek are getting in comparison with the guys at the top. All of the tech billionaires who could do the most to help others out during hard times, such as Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates, massively increased their wealth in 2020. Masayoshi Son tried his best to level things with WeWork, but he’s still worth more than $40 billion.

At the time of writing, Elon Musk is the world’s richest man with an estimated net worth of $209 billion. According to a survey conducted in June 2019, the average annual salary of a worker in Japan was around $37,800 (or ¥4.14 million). So, assuming that there is no inflation, it would take a newly graduated Japanese worker 5,529,100 years to catch up to Musk.

The other day, I read Aesop’s fable of “The Tortoise and the Hare” to my son. Musk will have to be one sleepy bunny for the hoi polloi tortoises to win this race. How about undiscovering at least a little of last year’s growing wealth gap?

Happy New Year, and don’t let the genies bite in 2021!

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