Not even Nostradamus or Mother Shipton would have collected a few quid from their local turf accountant this year; 2016 seemed to delight in the unexpected, turning perceived wisdom on its head, confounding pundits and pollsters, and smearing an unprecedented number of countenances in eggs. Few observers twelve months ago would have predicted Leicester City winning the Premier League, David Cameron resigning or Donald Trump acquiring the keys to the White House – yet some did sense the way the wind was blowing and made what appeared to be audacious claims at the time, claims that now seem like shrewd studying of the form book.
As with most developments, both culturally and politically, foundations are usually laid years in advance, generally without much fuss or widespread notice; nothing happens out of the blue, though the mainstream media can be so slow on the uptake that it can easily feel that way. Trump couldn’t have become the most unlikely US President in history had his predecessors not summarily ignored and neglected the silent majority he courted and persuaded he was speaking for; similarly, the UK electorate would never have voted to leave the EU had the residents of Westminster Village not looked upon their constituents as irrelevant pond-life whose concerns were secondary to their own self-preservation.
Hindsight is only a useful tool for those who learn from the lessons of history rather than ignoring them, and when the definitive chronicle of the early twenty-first century is written, all the dots will be neatly joined up as though the connections were evident to one and all at the time. However, in an age of information overload, the intimidating task of attempting to see the wider picture can risk pandering to the conspiracy theorist mindset; one can mistake speculation for fact or hearsay for evidence. There’s sometimes so much shit to sift through that the temptation to leave the job to the self-appointed experts is the easy option; and then they get it wrong.
It probably doesn’t help matters that we’re living in perhaps the most polarising era for at least three decades, something that makes any effort to discern the truth of any situation even harder. There is no middle ground and there’s no fence dividing the barricades that one can sit on for a bit in order to gain a little perspective. Shades of grey have been swept away by the absolute certainties of black and white, and one cannot have a foot in both camps. You’re either for us or against us. You’re with Corbyn or you’re a Blairite Tory. You’re a Brexiteer or you’re a Remoaner. You’re a feminist or you’re a rapist. You believe black lives matter or you’re a racist. Raise your head above the parapet and say something that others disagree with and you’re shot down as an enemy of the people. Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right.
Trying to look ahead to 2017 and anticipate events with any sort of accuracy would seem like compiling an impossible almanac; but there are probably a few predictable patterns. No doubt there will be another stupid, here today/gone tomorrow moronic trend along the lines of past fads such as the flash-mob, the clown craze, the ice-bucket challenge or the mannequin challenge, though I can’t see the intellectual challenge being one of them. There’ll be ridiculously OTT reactions to contestants in a TV talent show, from hysterical online arguments to tabloid headlines to a nondescript backbench MP eager to get their face on camera by issuing a ‘witty’ comment to show how in touch they are with the plebs. There’ll be a merchandise marketing exercise masquerading as a movie and it’ll break all box-office records despite leaving those who queued up to see it at their local multiplex utterly empty.
There’ll be a new boy-band/girl-group manufactured by the cultural puppet masters to keep the teenyboppers preoccupied; there’ll be another ‘new Adele’ specially designed by Jools Holland and Lauren Laverne to be nominated for the Mercury Music Prize and win a cluster of Brit Awards; there’ll be a celebrity couple splitting and another getting together; and there’ll be the naming and shaming of a less fortunate over-the-hill celebrity as a Paedo/rapist while the Chief Constable of a mediocre provincial constabulary urges other victims to come forward as the guilty-till-proven innocent star’s oeuvre is excised from the archives of the nation’s broadcasters.
There’ll probably be a couple of high-profile resignations from Theresa May’s Cabinet and I suspect President Trump will commit a series of appalling gaffes; ISIS will probably be responsible for a string of terrorist atrocities on European soil, aiding Marine le Pen’s victory in the French Presidential Elections and Angela Merkel’s downfall in Germany; Putin and Assad will finally pull their respective trousers up after completing the rape of Syria while the US and UK will continue to fund Saudi Arabia’s parallel destruction of Yemen; and Article 50 will remain unrevoked as the vested interests in Brussels’ very own Holy Roman Empire keep the gravy train on the rails. Oh, and quite a few famous people will die.
Then again, I could be wrong. Years in which a great deal happened are often followed by less remarkable ones. In this very decade, think of a year like 2011 – the Arab Spring, Hack-gate, the riots, the assassination of Bin Laden – and then we get 2012; all that comes to mind from that year is the London Olympics. So, we could be in for a quiet twelve months or we could be in for part two of the apocalypse. Watch this space.
© The Editor