Well, that’s it for 2016. One more turn around Sol. It has been a momentous year in many respects, and, of course, in others it is just another collection of days, one rolling into the next as the planet rotates from west to east.
S0… what will the history books say about 2016? I suspect that in fifty or one hundred years, historians will reflect on the similarity of the 1920’s and 30’s with the decades after the 2008 Global Financial Crisis. We saw the British people vote to leave the European Union, Australia’s double dissolution failed to return a majority government, Erdogan in Turkey manufactured a failed military coup to tighten his authoritarian grip on his country, Donald Trump has become president-elect in the USA, Putin continues to wage war on his neighbours, Greece continues to implode, Italy is following suit, terrorism rocked Belgium, France, and now Germany.
I’ve left out the natural calamities – earthquakes in Italy, cyclones in Japan, New Zealand, and the Philippines, massive drought and fires in the western USA. Nature throws disasters at us all the time. But the politics, I think, is ominous. Democracy has failed. Pretty much every Western country is now a Plutocracy – governed by the wealthy. Others are sliding into totalitarianism. In Australia, the Liberal party politicians are lawyers or businessmen, out of touch with the needs of people outside the big cities. The Labor (sic) Party politicians are almost all Union hacks, despite the fact that union membership is at an all-time low, and the Labor Party seems only to be concerned for the welfare of its unions, not of ordinary working people. Every attempt by Government to curb the power and size of the public service seems to be doomed to failure. The plutocrats in government are supported by the faceless bureaucrats. The 1980’s BBC satire Yes Minister is well worth watching to see how these things work.
And all of this – Brexit, Trump, minority government, unrest in Europe etc – is a result of the fact that the People have had enough. Nobody trusts politicians anymore. Brexit and Trump are the outcome of people sick of a system where they have no say. They’re sick of the apparatchiks in Brussels, the swamp in Washington, and the ivory towers in Canberra. They’ve had enough of not being listened to, of having their concerns brushed aside, of ordinary folks suffering at the expense of migrants. People in Europe are afraid that their way of life is being subverted by people with different belief systems. There’s plenty of evidence to show that’s true. Even Angela Merkel has said multiculturalism doesn’t work. She said it in 2010, and repeated it in December 2015. And here in relatively peaceful Australia the young and the old and the in between are all feeling left behind. Gone are the days of the Great Australian Dream of owning your own home. An education will cripple most young people with debt, and the idea of a job for life has disappeared. And yet CEOs get higher bonuses, Labor politicians retire as millionaires, the rich get richer and the Government thinks it’s fair to retrospectively target superannuation. No wonder the peasants are on the verge of revolting. I’ve linked to this article (the pitchforks are coming) before, but it’s worth repeating.
I’m sure you’ll all have heard the Chinese saying “May you live in interesting times.” As it happens, it’s not a Chinese saying at all. But hey ho, let’s pretend it is a curse. I think we’re there. We have arrived. We live in interesting times and 2017 will be a continuation.
That said, of course, lots of good things happened in 2016, too. There’s a vaccine for Ebola. Wild tiger numbers have risen for the first time in ages. Humpback whales are off the endangered list, as are Giant Pandas. And in Tasmania, it looks like the Tassy devil is beating the cancer threatening its existence.
Please note also that I didn’t mention the deaths of quite a number of entertainers this year (until now, anyway). Millions of people died in 2016, many of them well before their allotted time. The city of Aleppo comes to mind, as well as random bombings of civilians in Iraq, Afghanistan and the like, commuters in Brussels and Bastille Day revelers in Nice. And that’s without the regular carnage on our roads. At least those entertainers got to live – even if some of them died at a relatively young age. Even so, most were a lot older than my father, my brother, two of my sisters, a niece… Everybody dies. It’s part of the cycle.
But even so the death of Carrie Fisher does resonate. I’m a Star Wars tragic, so that one’s taken a little bit of ‘me’ with it. I was the same with Terry Pratchett who died a couple of years ago. I guess we all have our soft spots.
Anyway, that’s it for the navel gazing.
From a personal point of view, we’re doing okay. In 2016 we enjoyed a river cruise in Europe, an unforgettable trip to see Lake Eyre in flood, and drove clockwise around Australia, visiting old friends and relatives in Esperance and Perth, and newer friends in Karratha. I blog our travels, and share the photos. You’ll find links to the trips here.
2017 will see more travel. After all, if you don’t do it while you can… And yes, I’ll blog our trips and share the photos. I hope you’ll enjoy them as much as you have the previous offerings.
I want to wish everyone who reads my blogs a safe, peaceful and healthy 2017. And everybody else, too.
And as a finale, just a few photographic highlights for this year.