Fat bloke is on tour! I’m tapping this out, on the 31st December 2016, in my old ma’s living room. Little Bloke is battling Pokemon on his 3DS, Mrs Bloke is pinching her brow in resignation at something. It is the last day of 2016. 2016, the year we all have learned to hate.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but I can’t think of another year that we have anthropomorphised as much as we have this damned year. Looking at social media memes and it’s as if 2016 has been deliberately culling celebrities, shaking up the global political landscape along with one or two extremely unlikely sporting results to add spice to the mix.
Even within my living memory there have been momentous years that have changed the world. 2001, the world changed after 9/11, we all became a lot more scared, but I don’t recall anyone blaming the calendar for it. 1989 the Berlin Wall came down but no-one thanked the Date.
(Incidentally, my old ma is just reading her Saga Magazine, ‘There’s an article here about de-stressing your life with a Hula Hoop’ Can’t be said we don’t have the highest level of discourse in this house. )
I think 2016 has become such a Bête Noir because of the sheer range of disaster, political unrest and high profile deaths that have taken place, that it has become hard not to take it personally. There have been so many terrorist attacks they almost start to merge together. What we should remember though, for every attack in Europe far more have been killed and injured in attacks in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan etc. Most of the victims of ISIS are other Muslim’s, something worth bearing in mind. And the nightmare that is Syria.
The western world seems to have taken a huge political shift to the right, leaving us on the wishy washy left wondering quite what the hell happened.The Brexit Vote in the UK and Trump winning the Electoral College in the US, far-right groups on the continent making huge strides. And even on the left there are huge divisions; amongst the Ivory Tower Corbynites and the more pragmatist, less idealistically pure, centre-left. To this un-nuanced liberal I’ve often felt this year alone, in the centre ground, as everyone else rushes to the barricades on the far left and right.
The celebrity toll this year as well has felt particularly hefty. Some absolute legends have passed on, before their time. Facebook and Twitter have been an almost non stop litany of tributes to Pop Stars, Actors, Writers etc. The double tap this week of Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds has been exceptional though, in a year of exceptions. I was genuinely upset to hear of Carrie’s death. I love me a bit of Star Wars, it was a huge part of my childhood and Princess Leia an idol. In a time when pretty girls in films were there as eye candy to be rescued; Princess Leia stood up to the arch villain, was prepared to sacrifice herself for her cause, rescued her ill prepared rescuers and led a rebellion against a fascism regime. As the years passed you heard more of Carrie’s personal struggles, her strength and determination. Her death is a genuine loss to the world.
It is not so much the death of a celebrity that upsets me, it’s the frustration when they are taken before their time, and you know there was still so much they could have done. We’ll hear no more new tracks from Bowie or Prince, no new comedy from Victoria Wood or Caroline Aherne, no new performances by Alan Rickman. The future world is poorer for losing their creativity.
But odd as it might seem, it wasn’t such a bad year for Celebrity death, in fact 2017 is likely to be worse. BBC Radio 4’s show ‘More or Less’ have looked at this and the sad truth is that more celebrities will start passing on each year because there are more celebrities reaching the age where naturally people start dying. Mass celebrity culture didn’t start really kicking in ’til the 60’s, when Rock and Roll started, people started having TV’s at home, Radio 1 started up. Suddenly a lot more people became famous heartthrobs. Sadly, if you were born in the 1940’s, to be famous in the 1960’s, you are now in your 70’s.
The best we can hope for is that those who do pass are at a grand age and not far too young. But then, that is what we would wish for every human being, famous or not.
So, I don’t think 2016 has been a stand alone awful year. To be honest, I’m looking at it more as an origin story, putting the major players into place for the real action to start kicking off in the Sequals. I’m old enough to remember being slightly scared of Nuclear Weapons when I was a child; some of you may remember the Cuban Missile crisis which came ridiculously close to Nuclear War. I thought it was all behind us. I thought, of all the things to worry me, nuclear winter would not be one of them. Whatever ISIS is, they aren’t at the stage of being able to fire intercontinental ballistic missiles at us. I never thought I’d see the day when a American leader is talking about re-arming and expanding the nuclear arsenal. The same leader who has a hissy fit everytime Alec Baldwin does a skit about him on Saturday Night Live. Ladies of Greenham Common, we might need your determination again!
So, on that slightly glum note, let me wrap up by saying it’s not all bad. Yes, 52% voted for Breixit, but 48% who voted didn’t, those that didn’t vote at all didn’t. They can keep saying we chose as a nation, but we didn’t. Likewise, Trump may have got the Electoral math to gain access to the White House meter cupboard, but he lost the popular vote by a staggering margin. Not all Americans are reactionary right wing fools, just as not all Brits aren’t. Science goes on, discoveries are made, lives are improved over the world, books are written, music performed. There is still love, respect and an urge to peace in all humanity. We just have to make sure we are focused on that, and not on the fear and negativity the media bring us every day.
After all, in a year when Leicester City Football Club can win the Premier League, anything can happen.
Have a wonderful and safe New Year and I hope 2017 will, despite my misgivings, bring lots of joy for us all.