Thursday, 29 December 2016

SO LONG, 2016.

Well, it's been a year alright. If someone had written the events of 2016 as a novel, there would have been cries of 'stretching credibility' and 'bloody hell, this is depressing, even for a dystopian tale.' Maybe picking over the events of this year is a bit like circling a corpse, trying to determine the cause of death by kicking at it and tutting, but I prefer to think of it as analysing the past to learn from it - or at the very least telling ourselves next year won't be as bad. (It couldn't be as bad - could it?)

But wait! Let's see if we can't find some positives too. There must be some. Are you up for this? Okay, let's do it. Ladies and gents, 2016 was the year when...

1 - Politicians found out just how much The Masses hated them.

Politicians have been distrusted by the general public pretty much since the dawn of democracy (back when the word actually meant what it was supposed to mean.) This is not news to either party. However, 2016 was the year when the masses decided they'd Had Enough, and joined forces in big enough numbers to deliver a massive middle digit up to the ruling classes. It's not the first time in history this has happened, of course; the French aristocracy, for instance, got a nasty taste of what happens when you party like it's 1789 while your subjects are starving. What was different in 2016 though - largely due to the webbily-connected world we now live in - is that it happened over a short space of time, in two different countries several hundred miles apart.

It started here in the UK, with Brexit. After promising in the last election that he would allow the People of Britain to decide whether we should stay or leave the EU, David Cameron bit the bullet and called a Referendum. It'll be fine, said all the politicians who wanted to Remain. If there's one thing we know about the Great British Public, it's that they're a cautious little bunch of sheep. Change scares them; they don't like it when they don't know what might happen, and they don't know anything about how European politics works so they'll stick with what they know and vote Remain.

They were wrong.

The Great British Public might not know jack about European politics, but that very lack of knowledge wasn't going to stop them voting against whatever it was most British politicians wanted. Yeah, up yours, The Establishment - that'll learn ya! Power to The People! Of course, these same tickbox revolutionaries will be the first to complain long and loud when the ramifications of no longer being in the EU starts hitting them hard in the pocket and various other areas, but for the time being they're riding the wave of feeling like they Stuck It To The Man.

And just a few months later, on the other side of the pond, The Donald rode into the sunlight in a blaze of fake tan and rhetoric.

This guy was a businessman, not a politician. Heck, he knew sweet diddly squat about politics and cared even less. You'd think that would be something of a handicap for a man applying for the job of Running The Entire USA - but then, this was 2016 and Brexit had just happened in the UK, so logic and reason could take a vacation for the rest of the year. He was gonna build an effing big wall! He was gonna take back control of women's wombs, on behalf of all men and fundamentalist Christians! Best of all, he wasn't one of those evil Politician Types, who were totally in league with the devil - he was a regular dude! A stinking rich, narcissistic regular dude, mind, but hey...

And suddenly it was okay to be racist, sexist and homophobic again - because you were doing it for 'the right reasons.' It doesn't mean you're racist, sexist or homophobic just because you're supporting a man who clearly is, you're just Taking A Stand against the politicians and the politically correct who fence you in - and that's a far more noble cause that totally justifies trampling all over the lives of vulnerable minorities, right?

And so it's come to pass that, in 2017, the US will be acquiring a POTUS who tweets about 'unpresidented' acts and doesn't read the daily intelligence reports because 'he's already smart' (*sigh*... it's not that kind of 'intelligence,' Donald...) Britain will be splitting up with Europe in a long and acrimonious process that'll make breaking up with Taylor Swift look like a group hug session. And all the people who thought they wanted it will spit and froth when they realise the resulting brown stuff flying off the fan hits them just as hard as everyone else.

God help us all.

2 - Loads of really talented famous people died.

When it comes to those end-of-the-year round-ups of Celebrities We've Lost This Year, they're all going to have to book some extra time and space for 2016, because it seems like they've dropped like ninepins. Sometimes you can put that down to just getting older yourself, so that more of the famous people who ldie are from your own era and you're therefore more likely to have heard of them than some young twentysomething. But this year has been more deadly than many previous ones - or at least seems to have been - because a large number of truly iconic people have gone, people whose fame and talent spanned the generations. People like; David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Prince, Terry Wogan, Muhammed Ali, Ronnie Corbett, Victoria Wood, Gene Wilder, Leonard Cohen, Andrew Sachs... and in the last few days, George Michael and Carrie Fisher.

Some of them were genuinely elderly when they passed. Zsa Zsa Gabor, for instance, was within spitting distance of 100 years old, which is pretty damn amazing. There's some comfort to be gained that those who make it to at least their late seventies had 'a good innings.' But quite a few of the icons who died this year were relatively young - barely in their fifties. Thankfully the work they've left behind will live on as their legacy - and what a lot of brilliant stuff they've left for us.

Enjoy yourselves up there, guys and gals, and thanks for the memories.

3 - We did some super-awesome science stuff!

See, it wasn't all bad! This year we did stuff we couldn't have imagined possible even five years ago and stuff we've been hoping to do for decades. Not only did the LIGO Team detect gravitational waves in space for the first time, but other astro-sciencers also detected a planet orbiting the nearest star to Earth that sits in its 'Goldilocks zone' - which means it could, potentially, support life. Oh yeah, and a ninth planet was also discovered in our solar system - way, waay out in the deepest regions of space mind, but it's there. Looks like poor old Pluto aint getting back in the club anytime soon...

In the medical field, a young man who had broken his neck in a car crash was able to control a robotic arm via implants wired into his brain, another learned to move his hand again after cybernetic implants were embedded in his brain, and a group of stroke patients regained the ability to walk again after being injected with stem cells. A new blood test has also been devised that can detect even earlier warning signs of cancer than ever before.

On the environmental front, scientists devised an algorithm that can predict when, how and where tsunamis will strike with an accuracy never achieved before. It's early days yet, but hopes are high that it can eventually be used as an early warning system for coastal cities at risk around the world. And just for fun, we also discovered that fish actually talk to each other - and even have 'regional accents.'

It's good to know that, even if world politics appears to be taking a step backwards, science is still marching forward.

4 - And a few other miscellaneous (but no less awesome) things!

London got itself a new Lord Mayor - and rather than go with the old Etonian billionaire-type that seems to have been favoured in the past, this year they picked a man of the people. Sadiq Khan is the son of a bus driver who grew up on a council estate and worked his way up the world of politics - oh, and he's also a Muslim, a family man dedicated to encouraging unity in his borough.

Even better - the ozone layer has started to heal! Scientists monitoring the hole over the Antarctic have reported that, although it still opens from September to November, it does so more slowly. This is a result of the Montreal Protocol to phase out the use of CFCs though, so now we all have to hope and pray that a certain orange-faced president doesn't decide to do a u-turn on that because climate change is a unicorn or whatever goes on in his marshmallow-fluff-topped head.

For religion, the Church of England got its first gay bishop - and the world didn't end in a rain of burning hail and lightning after all! God's clearly mellowed out about such things - what a shame we didn't realise that like, centuries ago; we could've all saved ourselves so much time and heartache.

So there we have it. A lot's happened, but 2016 will soon be behind us, and 2017 is our chance to do better. I don't do New Years' Resolutions since they never seem to work out for me the way I intended, but I'd like to think we could all learn from the bad stuff of this past year and take the good stuff forward.

Here's to a way better 2017.