2016: The year sense, tolerance (and Bowie) died?

Alternatively titled: Why lunch can unite the world, despite an increasingly screwed up global political climate and a massive rise in intolerance.

Whatever the political, racial, geographical, economical, philosophical, sexual or gender differences between us there are a few things that absolutely everyone on the planet has in common.

All of the old clichés like ‘If you cut us we all bleed’ are trite but true, and it is also universal that we all eat, digest and then have a dump.

Which brings us neatly to the fact that just a few months ago one quarter of the United States populous took a huge dump on not only their own friends and neighbours, but also on the entire population of that country and to only a slightly lower extent on everyone in the world, but we will return to the US election shortly.

It’s been a strange old year!

2016 has been a year of massive change – Brexit, Trump, random acts of terrorism all over the world, not to mention all sorts of Russian madness. One can’t help wondering if we aren’t sliding rapidly towards what could best be described as ‘cold war 2.0’.

Slightly less importantly unless looked at from an artistic point of view there there seem to have been a much larger number of celebrity deaths than normal. David Bowie, Leonard Cohen, Prince…. the list goes on.

There is a possible explanation for this. As the BBC’s Obituaries Editor Nick Serpell says “We’re now half a century on from the flourishing of both TV and pop culture in the 1960s, which massively expanded the overall pool of public figures.” If he is right it would mean that this is only the beginning and we are going to have to get used to a lot more celebrity obituaries in the coming years.

Of the musicians who are still alive, Kanye West has lost the plot completely and Ed Sheeran has been stabbed in the face by royalty.

All of these are asides though, just one more before we get back to the main event of the year –THAT election…

A few months ago I wrote about the ‘Brexit’ referendum and ended my article stating that the content of articles we publish on P&G wouldn’t be really changed by the political goings on around me, but I think that I was wrong.

That post together with this one represent a pretty fundamental (in a central or primary principle sense rather than a subscribing blindly to a cause and feeling free to incite violence or murder for said cause sense) change in editorial direction for P&G.

The reality is that the world is changing in ways that I don’t personally like or think are healthy, and I have a voice which I feel compelled to use to comment on that. Please don’t worry that I have gone completely off-piste though, there is a food bit coming at the end of this article!

I have come to realise that while I would love to be able to write all encompassing articles that everyone will skip with glee to read and agree with, it just isn’t going to happen. The fact is that not everyone is going to agree with whatever I write about whether it is the best way to roast a potato or who should be running the most powerful nations on earth.

The wonderful thing is that we are all free to have an opinion and to disagree with other peoples. Articles 18 and 19 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights cover freedom of belief, opinion and expression. Anybody who disagrees with those probably isn’t somebody whose opinion I am likely to be overly bothered by anyway.

Elections and referenda

There has been more than one election over the past year, in fact there have been just over a hundred national/federal direct elections and national referendums worldwide. They take place all over the world all the time but then some are more watched than others…

While the UK’s EU referendum will arguably have longer reaching consequences, the most watched political event of 2016 was without a doubt the US presidential election.

The world watched but of all those actually qualified to have a say in who is the next ‘leader of the free world’ almost half seemingly couldn’t care less. The official turnout figure is that 57.9 percent of eligible voters actually went to the polls, which by my (rough) calculation means that 94.5 million really don’t give a shit about who governs their country, and therefore really shouldn’t have any right to complain about anything that the future president might do.

Of course choosing not to vote as a political statement is one thing, but this seems to be much more a case of voter apathy. The first BIG problem with this is that democracy only works in any sensible way if everybody actually uses their right to vote. So many have fought so hard for the right of suffrage and yet we choose to disregard it so freely. It’s a bitterly sad snapshot of the nature of the societies that we live in.

The second problem is that supporters of any kind of extreme candidate, whatever shade of extremist they might be, are always going to turn up and vote, probably very publicly expressing their twisted views along on the way. People who are more moderate (or sane) in their views are much more likely to stay at home when it is raining, this results in the middle majority staying away and extremism prevails.

As an aside, to an outsider like myself the electoral system in the United states seems really quite bizarre. I have, after multiple explanations, come to understand the logic behind the electoral college system but it just seems flawed to me. This is the second presidential election in the last five where the candidate who has actually received the most public votes has actually lost.

So despite losing the popular vote, the next president of the United States is…

The Donald

Am I the only person who finds it more than slightly ironic that one day after the 27th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall, the US elected a man who wants to build a new wall. This is a flip from a massive symbol of a brighter world future to clear signs of a darker one.

B-movie fans might be familiar with the massively xenophobic character of Senator John McLaughlin as played by Robert De Niro in Machete. If you aren’t then I suggest giving it a watch, directed by Robert Rodriquez it is both terrible and brilliant at the same time just as any B-movie should be. I laughed at Sen. McLaughlin when I watched the film, but now it seems that the US populous has pretty much gone and elected him.

As I stated in my article following Brexit I do understand how people can be frustrated with their current situation and vote for a change out of desperation. The concern comes when people vote for that change but don’t actually bother to check what the alternative is actually offering. Turning against an establishment might lead to something better or it might just be a way to kick yourself firmly in the face; it makes sense to find out which.

It scares the crap out of me that the ‘educated’ populations of our most ‘developed’ nations choose not to progressively become stronger and more united in moving forwards towards a world with more personal freedom and choice, less racism, sexism, homophobia and fear of other religions, but instead elect massively regressive leaders who embody all of the negatives listed above and are also bullies and liars.

Throughout his election campaign Donald Trump time and time again completely changed his view or opinion on almost every issue. He didn’t do this by saying “Oh, I have realised that I may have been wrong and this is my new view” but instead by completely denying that he had ever held the original view or said things that are well documented and recorded.

In addition to the Russian establishment rewriting soviet history as it wishes and IS doing their best to physically destroy large swathes of important world history in the middle east, do we now have a man about to take charge of the US who wishes to change the records of what he said on a week by week basis?

Hell, handcart?

The election of Donald Trump is just one more example of the worryingly insular culture that we are rapidly sliding towards, one where nobody really cares at all about what is actually happening to the world as long as their own little bubble doesn’t get popped.

We are ok with people drowning just out of sight of the beaches we flock to on holidays in a bold flight from persecution and the desperate search for a life with any kind of freedoms, just as long as they don’t wash up onto the sand we are sunbathing on. We are equally blind to the reasons that knife crime in the UK and gun crime in the US are on the rise amongst a youth who feel marginalised by the systems and the societies who should be teaching them right from wrong and don’t know how to express themselves in any better way, just as long as it isn’t our sibling or child who bleeds to death in the gutter.

I refuse to be without hope though, despite election results implying otherwise I have to believe that there are more reasonable people who are not full of hatred than those who are.

I also firmly believe that:

Eating is the one social thing that we can all share and relate to, no matter where in the world we come from, regardless of our culture, skin colour, sexuality, or religious sensibilities, because sitting down together for a meal is one of the few moments when we are equal.

from the ‘about P&G’ page

So this year I am going to make an effort to do just that with as many people as possible, whether they are old friends or those that I have not yet met.

Happy new year to you all, let’s hope that despite the setbacks that the year just ended has saddled it with before it even starts, 2017 manages to be a bright and wonderful one!

One thought on “2016: The year sense, tolerance (and Bowie) died?

  • January 3, 2017 at 12:16 pm

    On Mr Trump: “completely denying that he had ever held the original view or said things” I’m not really sure that he actually knows or remembers what he said the first time around. That would qualify more as idiocy or absentmindedness than actually lying – which isn’t any better either way around.


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