A lot of rubbish has been appearing on social media and elsewhere about what a terrible year 2016 was and good riddance to it.
I beg to differ. In many ways 2016 was a good year.
Of course your personal life will have had its ups and downs and that is the most important thing – so if your personal 2016 was on balance less than good then all I can offer is empty sympathy (empty because this is the virtual world and emotions here do not exist – if you exist in my personal real world then I will certainly try to help you have a better 2017)
But what the commentators are generally castigating 2016 for is not the personal, but its political, social and ecological events.
The top two negative events taken as exemplars of the year often seem to be BrExit and TrElection. In my view both of these were on balance good things. Quite apart from the fact that I personally anticipated and welcomed them (in the case of BrExit in an active way by voting for it, in the case of TrElection I could only cheer from the sidelines), they both represented a desperately needed shock to the status quo of the neo-liberal industrial capitalist growth driven Greed Society.
Of course things could have turned out better – if there had been an effective political movement driven by the energy that created the BrExit vote then we could be in a much better place. Instead the only political force that was in a position to campaign in that way chose to abdicate its responsibility to planet and people and become even more deeply embedded as part of the metropolitan left-liberal elite – certainly now part of the problem and not part of the solution.
There are very few of the good things that have come from the EU that could not have been delivered by a national or even regional government leaning in the right direction (eg almost all ecological measures could be taken by local power). There are very few of the bad things for which the EU is responsible that could have been enacted so cripplingly by a regional or national government (eg only a transnational government distant from its electorate can be so effectively infiltrated and subverted by the neo-liberal globalisation agenda – yes TTIP has been sidelined by events, but a government close to its people would never even have put it on the agenda and corporate interests still seem to rule the roost in Brussels).
There is a reason why the “take back control” meme struck such a chord (and delivered the result), the shame is that no-one so far has come forward to pick up the baton since it was dropped like a red-hot poker by the official leave group (I love the story of some pro-leave politician’s wife quoting on the morning of 24th June “you were only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!”). Still the opportunity remains, and the fact that it is there is a good thing to come out of 2016.
Likewise the TrElection was also a good thing – of course it would have been better had Bernie Saunders won over Ted Cruz, but that happened in a parallel universe. Here we make do with what we have – an bloody nose for the metropolitan coastal elite (who are the most ecologically damaging people on the planet) and a president who shows signs of some radically good moves (eg the most peaceful noises towards Russia that have ever been made in my lifetime – Truman died before I was born). At the very least you can say that the disruption and potential for change created by his election are a good thing – after all the alternative was the continuation of business-as-usual (BAU), and as with the EU, BAU can only lead to ecological collapse.
Quite apart from these two major positives for 2016 (TrElection and BrExit) there has been plenty of other things to celebrate – Fracking is increasingly being exposed as an unnecessary and uneconomic problem, Nuclear power is becoming widely ridiculed as a stupid idea that has had its day (and left us with a 1000 year plus toxic legacy and no money to clean it up). Of course both of these things are being promoted by our own most-disfunctional-government-ever – which is also a good thing as it contains the seeds of its own destruction.
For those still pinning their hopes on an increasingly distant eco-technic future the continuing rise of solar and wind generated electricity gave them hope that some form of industrial future will be possible. And for those who no longer cherish such hopes (there is no proven connection between the type of technology powering an industrialised society and the level of alienation, spiritual emptiness, lack of fulfilment and human unhappiness present in society) the rise of renewables might provide a short breathing space to re-calibrate what we think is really important and shorten the gap between the end of industrial civilization and the start of the ecological society.
Across the water a western world connection between indigenous people and those with destructive lifestyles was forged in Dakota – reports of police refusing to serve as instruments of repression and veterans of the USA’s imperial wars standing shoulder to shoulder with those who were first dispossessed and then repressed by the rise of Amerika are nothing short of heartwarming. Up until now the direct connection between westerners and indigenous lifeforms facing habitat destruction has been minimal – whilst it is cuddly animals to pity (orang-outangs, gorillas, etc) or forest tribes in loincloths to deride as ‘primitive’ it has been possible for western eyes to pass them by, but once it becomes our neighbours who are part of our culture (cowboys and indians) it gets harder to ignore. Standing Rock is a beacon.
In the (middle) East we are seeing a new approach to imperialism from Russia replacing the old Amerikan “start a proxy war and profit from the chaos that ensues” model. It may still be imperialism, but at least it seems less toxic. And the Trumpster seems to recognise this (although what happens once the military-industrial complex gets to him is hard to guess)
The continuing trickle of refugees has usefully focused western eyes on the meaning of blowback; it may even be soon possible to have a meaningful debate about refugees, carrying capacity and population again. For too many years the metropolitan watermelons have shut any discussion down and prevented the development of sensitive solutions – the future will bring hard choices whether we like it or not and it is useful to think about these things in advance rather than rely on knee-jerk reactions when TSHTF.
The accelerating pace of climate change – “funny weather we are having, isn’t it” coupled with reports of record-breaking warmth globally for 12 straight months and above freezing winter temperatures in parts of the Arctic – are starting to focus more people on the consequences of our actions (in some cases the first time they have realised that actions can have unseen consequences) and that can only be a good thing for driving the massive lifestyle changes we have needed to make for years and may be forced to make in years to come.
And as you drill down into more localised, and ultimately personal, events there are ever more positives to be taken from 2016. It all adds up to the end of normal, and since the continuation of normal would mean the end of us, then that is no bad thing.