At some point in 2016, I went to sleep and woke up in an episode of Black Mirror. I think I can mark the point at which this happened, it was morning, the 10th of January 2016. I awoke in Mayrhofen to the world service on my phone playing Star man. The snow fell lightly on my foreign window as the incongruity of this song with breakfast news suddenly sunk in. I realised Bowie was gone.
Many jokes then banded about the internet. Bowie had been the glue that held the universe together, etc etc. Then the celebrity deaths came thick and fast, so much so that they seemed unnatural. In the hitchhiker’s guide to the galaxy, moments before the earth’s destruction all the little dolphin souls leave the planet. For they had never really been of our world. And so throughout the year as the artistic innovators of our century shuffled off one by one. You had to ask yourself, as tapped into the universe as theses souls were, what did they know about the coming future? For coming it sure was. Then Syria, then Brexit until the final calamity. Trump.
There are so many issues to unpack with the victory of Trump, and as the left -wing indignation and hysteria has settled back down into smug individualism, many people are still asking how a man who was described as ‘The worst candidate the Republican party has ever had’ beat the ‘most qualified person to ever run for president.’ Is it sheer sexism? At a glance yes, on analysis something more disturbing.
Has the cult of personality prevailed? In a western society that has become to some, homogenised and inoffensive, is it simply that a loud brash opinion seems truly revolutionary. Even if the ideology at the heart of the brash sound bites is flawed and at best dangerous. At a moment in time, when we are losing many of our distinguished trail blazers, did the masses want something familiar and unsanitized. Hence the popularity of reality television and it’s commodification of emotions, which is nothing new. Even Dickens was guilty of it, but when the total unreality of reality television became the presidential candidate of the Republican party, and then to the dismay of millions, the President-Elect. One had to ask what was going on in the free world? What did America want?
The truth is Hilary represented to many Americans everything that was not working for them. A vote for Trump was a rejection of the status quo and more importantly a rejection of globalisation. Trump is not alone in pulling up the drawbridge. One of the effects of Globalisation has been Nationalism, as seen by the increased popularity of far-right parties in literally every corner of Europe. And why not, Globalisation, for some, is scary unchartered water of ever changing reflections. Altering the faces in communities and the fabric of societies. More importantly, it is not working for everyone. For sure globalisation is making the rich richer, but is it improving the life of the child mining the cobalt for your smart phone? Or the spiralling debt of the middle classes, unable to step off the consumer treadmill. Probably not. It is therefore not surprising that people are grabbing their rose tinted glasses and peeking back to the world that they knew how to navigate. (Albeit they could only navigate to another bit of the same country). Back in those halcyon days there was no foreign company/ child labour undercutting them, and you know, there was more time and less email to check, or so it seemed. Except this not how things really were and we don’t really know how to navigate this post- truth era either.
Regarding Trumps historic victory Salena Zito of the Atlantic press astutely observed that “the press takes him literally, but not seriously; his supporters take him seriously, but not literally” And that is the power of post-truth, it’s about feelings, not facts, and some of these feelings have been whipped into a frenzy by lies. What Salena has excluded in her analysis is the ultra right who take Trump both seriously and literally.
Trump is at the crest of a wave of Misogynistic sexual politics. Even if he does not literally mean he will grab the genitalia of women (although it has been alleged numerous times that he has) his words normalise the maltreatment of women. And this has been steadily on the increase in the west. At the height of the Trump campaign, the Polish Parliament tried to pass a controversial citizens bill for a near-total ban on abortion, even in cases of rape and incest. It was a bill that in the end even the Catholic Church did not support and was quashed in part due to mass demonstrations and strikes by women across Poland. A country that already has the strictest abortion laws in Europe
Then President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey tried to pass a bill that would have suspended the sentences of men convicted of sexual assault or rape of a minor. All they had to do was marry their victims (you know after they raped them…awks) And prove that “the act” (the rape) was “carried out without force” or “restriction on consent” but of course minors cannot give consent. That is why we have the law to, you know, protect the children, not their rapists. There was thankfully national and international outcry. The president’s own wife and daughter, publicly decrying the bill which was withdrawn. So why Trump may openly joke about sexually assaulting women, some countries are trying to make rape sanitised by law.
It is all not very funny. As a comic, I was at first, like many others delighted by the goldmine of lolz that Trump offered until it became all too clear that the joke was on us. Trump is funny as a concept but terrifying as leader of the free world. I am frightened about the future, with the left continually squabbling about footnotes rather than tackling the global issues that could lead to the demise of civilisation as we know it. I have to ask, who is fighting for the best of humanity right now? Perhaps this is why the passing of the greats feels so poignant
A year that began with the death of a man who was so much to so many, an emblem of artistic freedom and progress, ends with the regressive politics of an autocratic billionaire. Where now are all the revolutionary artists? now when we truly need them. I can’t see Little Mix burning a bra or Adele penning a protest song anytime soon. Who will speak for the disillusioned many? The loud brash demagogues?
With the bold and the brave personalities gone, will we still have the courage to stand up against the currents of fear and hate that are bursting the banks of society? These last few days, George Michael has left us, Carrie Fisher, and then Debbie Fisher in protest, for a mother to outlive such an incredible daughter is no life at all. All the death and destruction has left me asking one question, how will we honour the memory of our courageous artists? In 2017 will we all be bolder, braver, kinder and more humane to one another. Will we stand up for the young men on our streets, the women being oppressed, and the children being bombed? I think we will because I believe in the generosity and the courage of my fellow man. Let’s go 2017.