018 | Reasons to hope (a 2020 review)

Isabelle Roughol
Isabelle Roughol

Because if there's ever a moment for an absolutely not rational belief that things might be okay, it's surely the new year. (This bonus episode is a compilation of hopeful moments in the first two short seasons of Borderline. Yes, I could find some.)

Music by Reed Mathis.


Transcripts are published for your convenience, but they are automated and not always cleaned up. Please excuses typos and occasional nonsense, and always check the audio before quoting.

Lynn Choumann: I have slight hope that is absolutely not rational that things might be okay.

Isabelle Roughol: Hey, it's Isabelle. This is not an episode, just a quick postcard to send you my best wishes for the new year as French tradition demands. We've had a hard year and here on Borderline, we've talked about hard topics. So I went back through all my interviews of 2020 and pulled out  moments that offer a glimpse of hope for better selves and a better world. Consider this a quick shot of hope and inspiration. Because if there's ever a moment for an absolutely not rational belief that things might be okay, it's surely the new year.

Do you see any bright spots for 2021?

Ian Bremmer: Of course.

Isabelle Roughol: Yeah. Alright, give me some.

Ian Bremmer: Well, there, there are two big ones. One, we are doing vastly more on climate in 2021 than could have otherwise been expected and the coronavirus becomes an opportunity for that. That's a good thing. Clearly.

Lauren Tormey: There are good people everywhere and I think the thing I've realized as an American ex-pat, it's just, you don't need to rely on a leader to do the work for you. It's about the people living in a place that want to put in the work to make it better. And so I think, even though I don't agree with some of the politics of Biden, I hope that Americans don't just sit back and think, "well, let's see what he does." Cause it's not one person's job to change or make things.

Geoffrey Cain: I decided that it's time to return just right now, to help out and to try to repair some of the damage that he's done or at least to do something that would help America advance instead of being stuck in a replay of the Trump years. I have to get involved in some kind of politics or policy and just try to make it a better place.

Sarah Browne: I think in some respects, it's good for the country to put it all out on the table. That was simmering, then Trump was elected and then all of it is now regurgitated for everyone to see. And sometimes you have to have a clean slate. So at least now we know how ugly it can get, and that may help us decide what it is that we want to save and revive.

Wade Davis: I'd like to think there's a majority of Americans who want this division to be behind them.  If people get to the point where they want that dream of America more than they want to indulge their hatreds of each other, that will be the key to the recovery.

Ian Bremmer: Number two: we're unlocking so much more human capital because of the investments that have come from coronavirus. You're going to see more distance learning, more distance medicine,  improvements in AI and efficiencies around agriculture. These are big deals for a lot of countries that have been at the lowest end of development around the world.

Jamie Kanki: This could make Western education , just because it has been known to be so expensive, it could make it significantly more accessible. The students who previously never dreamed of going abroad because it was just too expensive, maybe now they can afford the online option. The questions around the true value of an experience and of a degree is going to be really put under a microscope over the next few years. Is it worth $25,000 worth of tuition just to take zoom classes? Or what is the actual value of the degree s going to be looked at more clearly.

Ian Bremmer: And the third thing is in less than a year, we have developed six minimum working vaccines for a disease that we did not know existed. Not only is that astonishing, and a testament to human ingenuity, but that MRNA technology now will be used to help vaccinate human beings around the world from all sorts of other diseases. And that's just a fantastic thing. It's impossible to look at these kinds of advances and not be excited about the level of dynamism of the world that we live in today. There's a lot of uncertainty, but a lot of that uncertainty translates into opportunity too.

Colin Yeo: It could be a time where people are thinking again about the value of migrants and just priorities in life, perhaps. It's maybe a little optimistic and naive on my part, I don't know, but it feels like it could be a time when people think, "Well, hang on a minute. The people who've kept our country running, kept the supply chains functioning and so on, maybe they are actually quite important after all, or maybe it would be a struggle if we had to cope without them."

Marcela Kunova: When you're a foreigner in a foreign country, you are more vulnerable. Sometimes this vulnerability also  just gives you the opportunity to be creative and to do things,  to try something new, to turn your life around or to create something, at work or in your personal life. And it can be a fantastic source of strength and of inspiration.

Mandy Fransz: Once you've seen the world, there's so many beautiful places to see in this world. There's so many people like you, or like us out there. There's no need to be afraid that you will be alone because there are so many people that are kind of alone in those countries. So if you want, there's always a possibility to have that community and to find like-minded people.

Zach Honig: When I first started, I was flying just to fly in many cases. You know, I would go all the way around the world in about a week. A couple of years ago, something kinda clicked and I just really changed my approach. I do hope that we're able to travel in the way that we could before. I think that there's a lot of people that do it in a way that is fulfilling and others, not so much. But for people that were really enjoying what they were doing before and feeling fulfilled and connecting with other cultures, I hope that's able to return.

Hassan Damluji: What would a united world look like other than people feeling, on a global level, something like what they do about their countrymen? People have always dreamed big about what a nation could be and it's human frailty and the fear of the other that we've always had that has held us back. How can we inculcate more of a feeling of belonging at a global level amongst people?

Ferdous al Faruque: I love the Vulcan saying, what is it... Oh, infinite diversity in infinite combinations . It's this idea that the more you intermingle with different groups of people, the more different kinds of possibilities in humanity that you can bring about. And I think that's kind of the normal evolutionary process. Whether you're talking about biological evolution, or you're talking about cultural evolution, allowing those kinds of interactions and getting out of your comfort zone, is what I think humanity should be about.

Janet Matta: I believe really strongly it's important to live authentically. And if you feel like you're not living in accordance with your values, you should change that. We have a vision of having just a little bit of land and a very modest house and chickens and a place for kids to run and a real connection to a community, a small city. And I think that vision and that lifestyle could carry us well into retirement.

Lynn Choumann:  I know this is super emotional. It has absolutely no rational basis, but still, for some reason, I still do want to come back and explore what the country and its stories can teach me. I'm talking about those conversations that you have in very random setups. I'm talking about streets that have history that speaks out to you. I'm talking about very witty jokes that the taxi drivers would tell you and he would make your day.  I'm talking about women who basically never let go, who are always fighting so gracefully , who are always fighting with so much tenderness. And this teaches me a lot. And it's my country and it's my culture, but still it's crazy. And maybe it's that, I'm charmed. Maybe it's the state or the element that we all have in common, right? Maybe it's that.

Isabelle Roughol: That's what belonging is, what you're describing.

Lynn Choumann: Yup. Exactly.

Thank you for listening and thank you for your incredible support through the first stuttering calendar year of Borderline.Isabelle Roughol: I wish you and yours all the best for this new year, a short line to get immunized and a return to hugging loved ones and meeting strangers and crossing borders. A very special thanks to my guests whom you've heard, and the Borderline members who make this possible.

As always remember that you'll find Borderline at www.borderlinepod.com where you can become a member, subscribe to the newsletter and find all the previous episodes. Make sure to share this with everyone you know, and rate and review on Apple podcasts.

I'll leave you with Reza Pakravan who speaks my mind. Borderline is a One Lane Bridge production. Music by Reed Mathis this week.  I'll talk to you soon in 2021.

Reza Pakravan: The joy of telling a story that changes people's understanding about certain parts of the world and about the world that we live in, that is the thrill. That's the best part of my job.

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Isabelle Roughol Twitter

Journalist, podcaster, media consultant. Telling stories & building better newsrooms. Writes The Lede. Ex- LinkedIn News, Le Figaro, The Cambodia Daily. 🎓 Mizzou '08, Birkbeck '25.