It's been a dark 2016, so says many, so says many news headlines. Jonny Wills takes on celebrity exit, the mess of Brexit, the swing to populism, climate change denial, fake news and dealing with the demagogue Trump, with a positive look at these past twelve months to help you, just in case you've let it spoil your year and fret for the next
So many stars, stardust
So many famous people, full-stop. The truth is that the more celebrities are created the more are going to pass from this planet. The sixties and seventies gave a wealth of entertainment and the obituaries written by journos like the BBC's Nick Serpell – effectively significant reviews of notaries – lay piled up in wait. Check these stats from the BBC, and raise a glass and celebrate the talents given the world by David Bowie, Prince, Ronnie Corbett, Terry Wogan, Alan Rickman, Leonard Cohen, Lemmy, Gene Wilder, George Martin, Victoria Wood, Mohammed Ali, Johann Cruyff, Caroline Aherne, George Michael and Carrie Fisher to name but a few. Aren't we lucky to have the work and memories they've left behind? Not to mention Dr Donald Henderson who directed the eradication of smallpox and Vera Rubin who confirmed the existence of a quarter of the universe.
Right now we can celebrate the great people around us: those volunteers, charity workers, healthcare workers and family carers who continue to devote themselves selflessly to the living without the desire to court fame.
When even the speechless, plan-bereft lead Leave campaigners were filling their pants, many awoke the morning of June 24th 2016 with a sickness in their belly that wasn't just because they were seeing Nigel 'Admiral Ackbar' Farage giving a Churchillian victory speech like he'd won a war for Britain or indeed the 'Rebel Forces'.
To tell you the truth I wrote an article on LinkedIn to help navigate the complex nature of the Leave/Remain decision put before the British people. I aspired to dissect the multi-layered, multi-faceted politicial, geographical, financial, historical and idiosyncratic reasons affecting the non-mainland European state of mind. It actually revealed how difficult the job of politicians really was in weighing up not just the pros and cons, but personal feelings, common sense and taking on or avoiding polemical cliché. The original draft forecast came out Brexit – not least because the British people were also commentating on the Establishment, and confusing the European Council (EC) with the EU as a whole. So for balance, I found some more issues (and source articles) in the debate till Remain made the piece more palatable, lest my liberal friends lump me or my country in the prediction form, with Gove, Farage and Murdoch.
It's since been revealed that this dog's brexitfast was less about fear and more about wanting control, which for some is still the same thing. My personal desire would have been for us to exit (wait for it), grow and reinvigorate a new EU and help lead a more economically-led, less idealised superstate vision. After all it was always the EC that was the unaccounted-for, secret society, policy drivers.
This fantasy version could still be unfolding! But the real beauty has, frankly, been the squeal of sovereign parliamentary democracy in bizarre concertina: from both globalisation... but yet back, for not only world trade, but for... European deals, again.
EU-President hopeful Tony Blair has set up shop in the shadow of Big Ben to influence what happens nexit, while The Smiths reunion was thwarted by Morrissey's glee that the Establishment had been kicked in the elite structures. Yet for all the forecast and arguement, upheaval and emancipated old-school prejudice unleashed by the events last summer, this democracy that first killed a king back in January 1649, before the other so-called great national revolutions of the French, Russian, American and Spanish, and even the formation of Germany as a nation, has proved that this supposedly sceptic isle is alive and vital with debate: that parliament still needs the judiciary, that the executive still prefers to look to be representing the people and that Britain, still incredibly without an actual written constitution, exists in a self-governing whirly-flux, ahead of the curve of world politics and prone to delivering stomach-churning realisations that we hate change, as such about-faces tend to be.
Not the end of liberalism
We'll get to Donald. But let's not focus on the neggy nastiness that already exists in the alpha human nature to progress and succeed, but in a surprising strangeness revealed by a turnaround from liberal politics, media and it's elite this year. Just hear me out.
Much of the name-calling, comedy memes, fearmongering and, well, smugness, came from a group that should have known better; liberals. Perhaps it was time for their power to swing away in the States as it was designed to do. Perhaps Clinton started realised she was not as high up on the moral pasture as Obama too late, or perhaps Jeremy Corbyn is still too moral and cutting-edge Westminster to make that translate to the people that need Labour to lead them, not be them. It's a superimposive righteousness that conversely revealed Gordon Brown's contempt, not his morally-driven ideals.
I count myself as a neo-liberal. But the truth is politics has moved on, sick of left, right and doing the hokey-cokey. And it's happening all over the Western world, squeezeboxing itself back in from being so globalled. At first it might seem scary, but as with Brexit, many politicians, learning from the destruction of the right into something seemingly more arbitrary, and the disintegration of the solid centre through the sheer force of change not being moderate, have learnt to be more pragmatic and well, more gung-ho fuck-it honest. At least ostensibly.
Clarity, a we are the 99% nowness and freshness is what gets Corbyn liked nationally, but an old school, socialist fervour fanbase is what gives him party power and I dare say, a secret pride. Fate is fickle and indifferent. Riding randomness, seizing opportunity and feeding popular fears in turbulent times will be what wins fortune: Theresa May, Donald Trump and Nigel Farage in the media every day seem cases in point.
Perhaps it's the term illiberalism that sticks in the craw.
But no matter how populism is labelled, it still has the word liberalism in it. That's not heavy-handed optimism: This means there is a reaction to good intention, which is a good thing, because then no one wants to do go on and do bad. There no turning back from goodness, you have to keep going forward or else look pretty evil. The so-called anti-liberals or 'rudenames given them' are winning on the people ticket and will have to deliver, else the backlash on them will be catastrophic. New politics politicians will have to continue to be seen doing right by the will of the people more than ever (even if they don't, it's still ostensibly a start).
Theresa May's first speech as incumbent PM was packed with such promises, and our gasp when Kate Bush endorsed her reminded our instincts that it was May in charge of immigration – arguably the key issue for Brexiters – for six years.
So the world has moved on – even it's for a phase of renovation – and PC-politics has found it's boundary. Can it really be set back? I wager it will be revitalised, with a much needed and more earthy, face-facts humanity put into it, even if it means us addressing sociologically our own inner darknesses. For 2016 called it: The liberal-minded had rested on their laurels and principles for far too long, and the future moral balancing will only make the next ethical generation's good will come out that much wiser and more determined.
If it's all about reality with climate, let's do indeed ignore the 99% of scientifically-proven factual study. I'm being sarcastic. If you can remember the last time we had a summer or consistent seasons then you might have a right to deny that climate change is real. But then you'd have to further defy all the 'since records began' stats that show it's never been warmer – with 2016 being the hottest year on record.
Newly-appointed Strategic Presidential Advisor, and 'green billionaire' Elon Musk needs to ask Donald Trump why he built sea walls round his golf course in Scotland and why New York gets flummoxed by freak snow blizzards on a regular basis. We've reached a point where carbon dioxide won't fall below 400 PPM (part per million) in our lifetimes, hurricanes and fatal floods are now annually hitting Britain and disastrous weather is almost nightly news.
So where is the positive news? To start with, the Paris agreement was ratified by 118 of the 194 of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) this December, a historic turning point no less because, the world as a whole is taking notice in an unprecedented way. It's doubly important in stemming the tide of industrialisation and putting the emphasis on greener production values, especially for the emerging economies with an eye on copying the West. Paradoxically, this has made it so that larger industrial nations can gain international kudos by leading with environmental concern. Suddenly China seems more ethical than the impending isolationist administration of the US.
Then there is social media and the tide of public opinion, effectively a platform for the people. Many naysayers will tell you it's a lazy way to be active, that we should all be on the streets with berets and poignant placards. The point is that they are mass lobby and charities and action groups like Greenpeace use platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and strategies like emotionally impacting memes, factual reports and direct emailing to harness the power of mass signature. They are recognised in three important ways, one, as common practice: at 10,000 names the UK government has to respond and at 100,000 petitions are considered for debate. Secondly, they are also recognised as vital items people can point to and share, something easily understood and referable to friends speedily, with 'focus' being the prime reason, where statistics, facts or points are made more emphatically. Thirdly, they are a healthy balancing reaction to news, events or movements. It might feel as trite as Paddy McGuinness on Take Me Out telling you: "The perwer is in yoor hands", but really it isn't, the power really is.
The news is just wrong
I'll be quick with this one. Fake news? There's always been sell, propaganda, hearsay, defamation, bias, fervour and bullcack. We already know. Professional journalists – there are such people – have to watch, research and properly source what they write every day. Or at least swerve around what they could have said. Oh alright, sometimes help you infer or influence to vote for the party most likely to help the publisher's world domination plans (that's just my opinion). The fake news online thing will no doubt bring some legislation to stop both sides getting out of hand.
But then, philosophically, there is your truth, the counter-truth, the truth of the universe and the truth in a world in flux. Then there is the truth that you can't be bothered or that you have... just been distracted.
What we're possibly aiming for (in the reportage in the media and online) is a clarity that chimes with our heads and our hearts. And many people will be representing or writing your views all around you, because you will gravitate towards them or enjoying reacting against them like they (or you?) are a devil's advocate. The most general truth about internet writing I tried to tell an irate editor friend of mine when he was tearing his hair out at some distorted garbage opinion piece he'd read was to tell him that all online content is user-generated and hey, he'd still not been fooled by the article that made his blood boil. So here we are again, the power is in your hands. Liberals check your ideals, everyone really is included, whether right, wrong, annoying or a bunch of uneducated loosers who can't spell losers.
Trumping disingenuous ignorance
Let me end, as many people think we will do, with Trump. I'll leave this here: ten reasons why he may not be all that bad after all. Then I will remind you that he's a success addict, and part of us knew he would win the US election. The problem with of course is his business malpractice, which, when you make billions is bound to happen somewhere along the line. But now Trump in a place to see behind the curtain and understand more fully why things take time to get done. He plans to be radical and remove the Federal Reserve and replace the gold standard. This means addressing the biggest potential problem of his coming tenure, and that is money. Not economy, not global economy, but money itself. If he doesn't get assassinated. and I'm not being flippant or a conspiricist.
Banks have long since had the financial reigns and made themselves indispensable to the government and the people. Trump is a man that once rinsed 70 banks for forty billion dollars against a personal fortune of less than a billion. The thing is banks love people who want debt and he was in the property game, which meant there were tangible assets (buildings) to seize if it he didn't deliver. The Federal Reserve is a more deep-rooted proposition, being as it is a private conduit for private interests.
I'm not an apologist for Trump, but I feel no need to point to his obviously crude and hypocritical personal tastes. Instead I'll focus on his way of taking on problems and giving them a response, by getting dirty and doing dealing. The trouble with him is that his name is his brand is his business is now the name of the President, and he has to learn to stop fusing them together in an insecure and personal reach for alpha approval. The thing to remember is that this ego governs The Donald as someone who wants to look and be successful. So he doesn't want to lose his beautiful buildings in an unfeasibly sudden rush to all out nuclear oblivion. He won't want to veto everything that's already doing good. And he will approach things in the way he already knows from doing global business, and this means routing diplomatic norms and perhaps getting down to it without the need to play the usual game.
And the environment? Well, the global response to climate change has only been relevantly sizeable in recent years. It may just take a force like Trump to consolidate and help gather momentum for: a) either a better response against his kind of supposed climate change denying views or b)take on his love of money, deals, solutions and success to show him that sustainable energy is the only way to go.
My instinct says that a lot of what he says is positioning for future negotiation, to get the best deal down the line. So he will need convincing, and this arguement's strength, along with actual changes in climate, global opinion and the issue being top of the news agenda consistently for the first time (ironically through Trump's media attention), may I believe serve to lay the foundations of disolving the disingenuous ignorance of so many self-serving fossil fuel billionaires.