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2016: What on Earth Happened?

Oh Bowie, where are you now?

Donald Trump has won the US Presidential Election. In January 2017, he will sit down at his new desk in the Oval Office, where some of the most influential and brilliant minds have sat for centuries before him. If it wasn’t for his narcissism, he might well have felt intimidated, or at least like a cheat to have reached this far. How can a man so innately poisonous gain enough popularity to become arguably the most powerful person on the planet? More powerful than Obama of course, because now the House of Representatives and the President are both Republican. It will be easier for Trump to sanction a wall across the Mexican border than it was for Obama to sanction gun reform and health insurance. This is what we face. So the question is: why does this year seem so incredibly awful?

June and July marked an interesting philosophical moment for a lot of people on this planet. Mainstream and social media picked up on a strange (yet obviously justified) feeling of discontent for this calendar year, and after a while it was retweeted/blogged/memed enough to become a subtle phenomenon. From this point forth, any social, political or violent disaster fuelled the fire even more, with an increasing amount of people jumping on the “2016 is one of the worst years in history” bandwagon. As real-time experiencers, it’s understandable that we’d ‘play favourites’ because we don’t have the benefit of hindsight, but does this year really have the potential to make it up there with the worst of them?

Tweets that even predated Brexit:

It didn’t take long for 2016 to project a feeling of sadness and uncertainty. January saw the unexpected deaths of David Bowie, Alan Rickman and a number of treasured celebrities, which set an early, ominous precedent for many people who were hoping to put the previous year behind them. Eventually, after a few months of this, we had almost desensitised ourselves to it, having a “Wow, not another one!” response rather than just genuine sadness. We chose to react to the chain reaction, detaching ourselves from the individual deaths and instead using the trend to spell out 2016’s first period of despair.

During this trivial guessing-game of who might die next, poverty-stricken people in the Americas were struggling with their own epidemic: the Zika virus. Despite originally breaking out in Brazil in April 2015, February 2016 saw it reach a critical state, with the WHO predicting over 1.5 million infected people by the end of the year. This led to severe travel warnings, which not only majorly affected tourism in South America, but had a huge impact on the very mundane atmosphere in the 2016 Rio Olympics. Even though Zika may have fallen off the map of many mainstream media outlets, it remains a serious threat to many people.

We also have to consider ongoing disasters that have simply just exacerbated this year. The unrest in Syria, the Refugee Crisis and the impact of ISIS are by no means fresh news, but events have definitely worsened. Russia and the US have heavily increased their bombing of Aleppo and impatience and hate for refugees have intensified tenfold. This is mostly due to the rise of attacks by so-called Islamic State. Belgium and France experienced the worst of attacks on Western soil this year, and as a response right-wing media across Europe has scapegoated the desperate, poor, dying human beings escaping from their obliterated homes. On top of this, ISIS attacks on Muslim soil far outweighs Western attacks, where they have claimed uncountable bombings in Turkey, Syria, Kabul and many other Middle-Eastern areas. All we need to do is remind ourselves of the poor Syrian boy Omran Daqneesh to get a feel for the horrible events taking place there.

Turkey’s President Erdogan – AFP

Turkey specifically has experienced a new wave of violence this year. A peak in terrorism on behalf of both the PKK and ISIS has led to many Turkish people feeling uneasy in their homes and looking for a position of authority to convince them they are safe. (Un)luckily for them, they have Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, leader of the AKP and self-proclaimed President of Turkey. After an attempted Military Coup on 15th July, Erdoğan seemed to take quick, decisive action on anyone who did not support his regime. Most likely orchestrated by himself in the first place so he could consolidate even more power, the attempted coup has led to a ruthless crackdown on thousands of innocent judges, journalists and academics, all who are claimed to support his “rival” Fethullah Gülen. Just one day after the attempted coup, for example, Erdoğan fired 2745 judges; an eerily specific number that could only have been calculated beforehand. This, alongside the arrests of “rival” journalists has meant that Erdoğan is fully focused on limiting as much free speech in Turkey as possible.

As a whole, politics has taken a reactionary stance this year. Even in the Philippines we see a fascist President being elected, who doesn’t mind following in Hitler’s example and is willing to kill as many drug addicts as Hitler did Jewish people. Austria very narrowly missed out on electing a far-right candidate who said that carrying guns is a “natural consequence” of immigration.

Quite obviously for us, however, the biggest reactionary vote us Brits experienced this year was Brexit. Like the Philippines, like Austria and like the USA, a huge amount of voters were subjected to scaremongering on behalf of right-wing media as a result of immigration. It has been painted as a taxing, dangerous phenomenon rather than a rich, various area for opportunity, due to the fact that nationalism, sovereignty and patriotism, three of the most politically cancerous terms of 2016, have been prioritised over solidarity and assimilation. As a result, we’ve jumped off the boat with a punctured dinghy and all we see is just a horizon of nothingness.

I can imagine many Americans feel the same as this right now.

And we still have over a month left. All we can hope for is a better 2017. Cynically speaking, however, a Trump Presidency, further violence in the Middle East and an increased threat of terrorism in the West are all problems we will inevitably have to face. Let’s just brace ourselves and expect the unexpected.

For those wishing for information on what to do next, regarding the daunting prospect of 2017, click here.


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