Thank god it’s over. I wonder how many of us have said that about the just departed 2016. Perhaps as many who can look back at the last 12 months with fondness as the year they got a promotion, had a great holiday or met the love of their life.
I have to place myself in the former category and not because I needed an operation to unblock a deformed nasal passage, mourned the death of my wife’s mother or my involvement in a serious traffic accident.
Because I write about the affairs of the world I can look back at 2016 as an unmitigated disaster, worse than the terrorist attack of 2001 and as bad as anything since World War II.
The event that most depressed me was the United Kingdom’s vote to leave the European Union. I make no apologies for my support for the European experiment which goes back well before I was in the House of Commons for the 1971 EU debate in which Edward Heath, the most honest and bravest politician I have met, stated that without a vote in favour of membership his Government could not reasonably continue.
Even worse, after the June referendum – which with a margin of 3.9 per cent I refuse to accept the Europhobic media’s description as ‘decisive’ – the Government that emerged is probably the most incompetent of modern times, filled with brutal ideologues and show ponies and led by a blatant opportunist who months later still cannot define a clear path to realising her miserable objective.
If Brexit had been the only negative of 2016 it would have been bad enough, but it was also the year in which the people of the United States – with the help of the antiquated relic of its electoral college, chose a man whose idea of policy creation lies in what he tweets next, a sexist bigot who convinced enough people in enough key states that he could turn back history and resurrect jobs that have not only been lost, but simply no longer existed.
Throughout the year the rest of the world looked on helplessly as Russia propped up Bashar al-Assad in Syria with a merciless campaign of destruction that killed and maimed thousands of innocent civilians and sent millions more fleeing into exile, all in the name of the ‘fight against terror’.
We saw the man in the highest office in the Philippines acting like a homicidal maniac, freely admitting he had personally killed people in his so called war on drugs. Even in sport it is now clear that the last few Olympic Games and many other top events have been tainted by drug cheating that is not only condoned by some national Governments, but sponsored and encouraged.
But most disappointing for this old-fashioned journalist was the rise of terms such as ‘post truth’ and ‘fake news’.
As traditional news outlets are in decline, replaced by lurid rants in support of the prejudices of their billionaire owners, social media has filled the gap, giving full reign to the most outrageous conspiracy theories and fantastic lies. A poll during the year showed that more than 30 per cent of Americans believed a posting that US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton headed a paedophile ring in California.
If truth becomes an optional extra, openly abused and disregarded; if ‘news’ is designed to fit whatever prejudices and hang-ups the individual possesses, then we will surely be treading a rocky road. Let us all resolve to work for better outcomes in 2017 and beyond.