Oh hey 2017, didn’t see you there!
Actually, that heading is inaccurate – 2017 will be different. It will be worse. How can it not be?
Our heroes are getting older. From our parents (if we’re lucky enough to still have them, and like them) to our old high school teachers, Madonna to Murakami, David Letterman to David Attenborough, nobody is safe. The Baby Boomers are still the largest percentage of the population*; natural attrition is going to feel like a pileup of tragedy** for many years yet.
A criminal, politically inept, emotionally unstable megalomaniac is about to take up his tenure as the boss of the most powerful country in the world. What could go wrong? It’s not as if his appointment reflects global sentiment, as if reactionary governments everywhere are failing to suppress growing tides of neo-Nazi fascism in service to grossly outdated nationalist ideals… oh wait.
It’s a dangerous time to be non-male, non-white, Muslim and/or non-heterosexual (not that the significant danger of ‘living while marginalised’ hasn’t existed from time immemorial); it’s a lethal time to be seeking refuge.
This year, atmospheric carbon levels reached the tipping point; basically, we’re all doomed. I guess it doesn’t matter then that Queensland’s $22 billion Adani coal project has finally been given the go-ahead? The arts were casually decimated. Health and community services continued to be slashed and defunded across the board. Mike Baird got worse (how was that even possible?) – then, impressively, worse again. Human poo stains Eddie McGuire, James Brayshaw and Danny Frawley ‘apologised’ for ‘joking’ about drowning a female sports journalist; meanwhile, seventy-one Australian women were killed as a result of violence. Homelessness in this country is at an all-time high, despite record numbers of properties sitting empty.
If you’re imprisoned on Manus or Nauru, my heart aches for the inevitable year’s worth of Groundhog Days that await you. I fear to think what it is that will disrupt them.
I’m not saying anything new here, and by no means have I covered (in the most box-ticking of ways) anything close to all the issues. I don’t know why I feel the need, either, to corral these disparate horrors under the neat umbrella of ‘things that suck’, as if that makes them easier to understand or address. Maybe I’m just mentally regrouping, girding myself for the upcoming year of social media showdowns and blog comment battles with the Hydra of right-wing trolls lined up at the auto-cue.
Something I try to keep in mind is this: in many cases, it’s social progress itself that’s catalysing the bad stuff. It’s getting too real. Too threatening. Too much of it is being made, and ‘balance’ (what privilege feels like when it’s all you’ve known) must be restored. Feminists must be put in their place, people of colour reminded that it’s just a joke, Muslims directed to denounce extremism (never mind that they already do). Activists are derided as fringe lunatics who nobody listens to and will never make a difference, and simultaneously gagged from publicising the horrors they’ve unveiled on threat of prosecution.
When power still lies overwhelmingly with the status quo – and it does, of course – those invested in it hold the comfortable advantage of being able to push hard against any resistance and risk little damage. They control the commercial media with unprecedented dominance; they run governments because voters still consume commercial media in alarming volumes, despite the ubiquity of the internet and the proliferation of excellent alternative outlets. Progress is still the minnow; or if not quite the minnow, then at most the dolphin to the mainstream’s shark.
The good thing is that dolphins are great fighters, and fight is what we must do. To paraphrase the great Stephen Colbert: ‘Reality has a left-wing bias.’ I’m feeling quite bleak about it all, to be honest; but to continue to call out, stand strong and resist, resist, resist are our only options.
*Apparently Millennials overtook the Baby Boomers as the largest living generation early in 2016.
**Tragedy is obviously a relative term.