Life Lessons of 2016

Reviewing a year like 2016 was never going to be fun. For a year that has been awful in almost every single conceivable way, ranging from my personal life to multiple celebrity deaths that shocked the world, there is not really much worth celebrating from my perspective. For some less like-minded subsections of society it has been the year of their dreams, but for people like me who plant themselves firmly on the left of the political spectrum it could not possibly have been worse. But in everything that happens there are lessons to be learned. I do not believe that everything happens for a reason, a greatly optimistic view of life but one which tries to justify a lot of suffering that cannot be justified, but I believe that we can learn lessons from life that can help us for the future. So although 2016 has been, in almost every conceivable way, the worst year of my life here are some lessons that I have learnt that give me hope that 2017 can be at least a little bit better.
People are angry with the world, and that gives hope for a more progressive change.

Politically 2016 will be remembered for two votes more so than any other events, Brexit and the victory of Donald Trump. Both were the victors of horrific campaigns fought, primarily by the victors, on a platform of fear and hatred. The demagogic caricature of a human being that is Donald Trump preyed upon an electorate that was fed up with the status quo, so perfectly embodied by Hillary Clinton, to win the electoral college and thus the presidency. He harnessed an anger that had been brewing against establishment politicians, something which was also being done by Bernie Sanders who ran a much closer competition against a Clinton than many would have expected.

So although the consequences are terrifying, Trump has already proven he has no idea whatsoever of international diplomacy, both Trump and Brexit have proven one thing and that is that the status quo will no longer do. People do not feel like the political and economic systems are working to their benefit and want a change. Thus these events can be seen as, misguided I believe they may be, attempts of the people bringing back control, taking control away from an established elite and giving it to people. How giving more power to an UK government that has constantly removed and lessened the rights of workers and has an increasing number of people working whilst in poverty is good for people I do not know, however I can see the motivation for voting such a way.

I believe that Brexit and Trump won not on political issues, but by aligning public fear and anger with their cause. The Brexit campaign prayed on frustration with employment, economics, and migration, to name but a few, and showed that these things would be better by a radical change to the status quo, something that is a lot more believable than the status quo resulting in the change that people want.

To me the status quo will not create the change that people want, but that has nothing to do with membership of the European Union, it is to do with the Tories austerity measures. It is due to companies seeking profit at the expense of worker’s rights, as seen by Sports Directs Scandals. The EU was just a scapegoat for the change people want to see, a change that will not come from the leaving of the European Union, but from a direct change to the political system. A move towards less partisan politics that people divide themselves into tribes for and a progressive alliance for common interests. A political system that people feel is and can see is working for the many and not just the few. A political system that creates the real substantial change that people want to see. People are angry with a system, politicians and a media that does not reflect them. That puts emphasis on events and topics that do not mean much to them, when jobs and economics are the main focus for many families.

This anger deserves a movement that creates the change that people want to see, rather than, to quote Will Self about Trump and Farage, ‘Grubby opportunists on the coattails of history’. People harnessing this anger for their own beliefs, ambitions and ideals rather than, working for the wishes of the people. We can learn that people are angry, and we can listen to them and see what they want to change and how they want to change it.

People are really fucking great.

When I consider my social skills this time last year to where I am now, I have made brilliant strides. I will always be an introvert, I will never really be the life and soul of the party, I will barely be at the party. I may feel like I am missing out but I am probably not or maybe I am but ultimately I would probably rather be drinking some tea and reading a good book. But over this year, and probably for the first time I can remember in a long time, I have learnt not to fear people, and on top of that most people are really fucking great.

I used to shy away from talking to anyone new, and in all honesty I still probably won’t make the first move in talking to people. However, this year I have got over my fears of casual conversation and can now talk to people a lot better. By working in retail I have to talk to so many new people a day and I now no longer fear being approached. I no longer judge people by how they look, which I feel I subconsciously used to do, and I am no longer so quick to judge people. I will always be a little bit critical but in many regards that is who I am. In the last 12 months I have met many of the, loveliest people I have ever met who I would never have even spoken to had I never been in the situation I have been in. This has not only helped me conquer my fear of people but also helped me understand others a lot better. I have met people who all have their difficulties and come from all different walks of life, some seemingly more privileged than others but all lives have their issues and those issues are relative to the person.

So on that note, I have learnt that people are, mostly, brilliant. That people mainly want the best, not just for themselves, but for others. People are not selfish, people care deeply about others and are there when you need support and help. With this in mind I am hopeful for the next year, I have made some great friends, I have rekindled some friendships that were dying or thought to be dead and I maintained some great friendships too. So I am hopeful for 2017 as I am a more confident and at peace person

Appreciate what you have.

This is not so much bound to this year but the last year and a half. I interrupted my university studies in March 2015, it is now December 2016 and my life is nothing like it was. Relationships have come and gone, my family life is completely different, I moved from buying music on CD to buying it on vinyl. The main thing is I would not say I am better off now, I would not say I am happier. If I could change certain things I would. If I could have made the most of certain situations I would have. If I could have changed my attitudes towards certain events, certain people and how I dealt with things I would have done. For large periods of this year I have felt lost. I have felt hopeless at points; I have felt like I just wanted to give up on everything. I felt like everything was going wrong, everything had gone wrong and everything would go wrong. I still don’t really feel happy with who I am at points.

I have learnt things from this, not to put too much weight on people and relationships is the main thing. That there is not a single solution to all my problems and making things out to be one is not helpful. That things I want are not necessarily what other people want and that is ok, it is not ideal for me but if it is what they want that then I have to respect that and try to move on. But ultimately what I have learnt is that I need to appreciate moments more. Looking forward to things in the future is good but those things may never happen. Plans you have, things you are looking forward to can just as easily not happen anymore. So I have learnt to appreciate what I have and the people in my life now because one day they may not be there. It may not be anyone’s fault and it may be for any reason but one-day people might not be in your life anymore. So appreciate those that you care about, the things you love and the experiences you have, because soon they could just vanish and the future becomes bleaker and less something worth looking forward to and more one in which you hope there is something worth looking forward to.

There is hope, however much it might not seem like it now

My last point may have sounded self-defeatist but in reality I have found accepting, these things to be one of the most positive, albeit harsh, life lessons of the last year. As I have said I am not happier than I was this time last year, but I am happier than I was in July. Things don’t ever have to be great, I may never be as happy now as I was this time last year. I may never have a trip I enjoyed as much as the time I went to Bucharest; I may never see a gig that is better than Kate Bush’s ‘Before The Dawn’. Time does not denote progress and progress does not denote time.

Accepting this has given me hope. Acceptance that getting older and not everything happening for a reason has allowed me to see that life is just a series of peaks and troughs and maybe I have already reached my highest peaks and hopefully my lowest troughs. Maybe I will lament forever about how great certain things were, but all I can do right now is live my life and hope things get better. That means to be proactive and try and make things better be it through my personal life, becoming more politically active and trying to make the difference I want to see or just by making the most of opportunities and experiences. Life isn’t great, the world is in a terrifying state and we lost Prince and Bowie this year. But there is hope. 2016 was shit in every way, maybe 2017 will be too. But maybe just maybe it won’t be. And that hope it won’t be is worth staying alive and working for.


Because the world needs another opinion on the US Presidential Election

A question that is asked at the end of every election is whether the victor won the election or the loser lost it. Ultimately it is always somewhere between the two, the victor did things to win the election and the loser did things to lose it. But as the world prepares for the dawn of the age of President Donald J. Trump, I think the progressive Left can look for hope in a belief that it was not Trump who won the election, but Hillary Clinton who lost it.

2016 will be remembered in history for two votes, The EU Referendum and the US Presidential election, with their common ground being a rejection of the status quo. Both the UK and the US voted for change, a change that personally I feel is more detrimental than beneficial to both nations but a change nonetheless. Unfortunately, I believe that this change is no more than a desire by some of the people who voted for them as a return to an era that does not and cannot longer exist, with desires of Making America Great Again and Taking Back Control in a world where that is increasingly impossible and actually counterproductive on a global stage. However, the desire for change from the status quo is admirable and one that I can back.

Obama promised “Change we can believe in” and captured an optimism and desire for progressive change. A desire by the people to make an African American president, a desire to create affordable healthcare and a desire for social changes. The jury is out on if he succeeded here and what his legacy will be. Hillary tried to recapture this hope of progressive change by trying to become the first woman president but that was not enough against a man who claimed he would provide real change. Trump was arguing for a complete change to the establishment, the dismantlement of the political juggernaut families and the like, (he beat a Bush in order to become republican nominee) whereas to many Americans Clinton was the embodiment of establishment politics.

This election could never have been about anything else than anti-establishment politics. When Clinton faced Sanders in the primaries, in an election that I believe to have been rigged by the DNC in favour of Clinton, she was constantly attacked for being a member of the establishment. Sanders galvanised a progressive movement in the US similar to the one that Corbyn represents in the UK and created a group of people who described themselves as “Bernie or bust.” Democratic, left-leaning supporters who wanted the dismantlement of establishment in a similar way that Trump’s supporters desired. They could not wholeheartedly vote for Clinton because she was in many ways the enemy, any vote for Clinton would be one of reluctance and in many ways, in a parallel of what the media has accused Trump of on many occasions, fear.

Trump opposes almost everything I stand for. His stances on immigrants, minorities, abortions and almost every other social policy I can fathom are despicable and in many ways something to fear. However, fear of Trump alone is not enough to start a movement (Although recent events in America may soon prove this wrong), especially when it is being spearheaded by someone who people in her own party see as untrustworthy and dishonest. Trump harnessed fear in a direct sense, he picked up on the fear of immigrants, fear of job losses and fear of America losing its premier position in world politics. Clinton tried to fight a campaign on fear too, however, this was the fear of what Trump could do and thus more hypothetical. There is undoubtedly reason to be fearful of Trump when being a minority in the US, and for some this would be reason enough to vote for Clinton, but for many this was not. This is reflected in the overall results where Trump got approximately the same votes as Mitt Romney in 2012 and John McCain in 2008. Hillary got 10 million less than Obama in 2008 and 5 million less than in 2012.

In that sense is it possible to say that Trump won the election? Trump managed to maintain a core Republican base, even when being such a divisive candidate, but Hillary did not manage to get out the voters that Obama did. Hillary did not manage to connect with millennials in a way that resulted in increased turnout like Obama did. Hillary did not create a movement like Sanders did. To that extent, this election is less about Trump beating Clinton and more Clinton (and the DNC) failing to connect with America.

So why has this given me optimism? In many ways it cannot be argued that the right is growing, votes and turnout did not drastically improve in this election. It could be argued that the left is dwindling, however, I would argue that the fall in turnout was more due to the apathy of establishment politics. Both Republicans and Democrats want a change to the norms of the establishment as witnessed by the meteoric rise of Sanders. Trump was an outsider, no experience of public office and woefully underequipped and prepared for the job, but to Republicans, this did not matter he was better than the democratic candidate. To many people, swing voters, and democrats alike, Clinton was the lesser of two evils* but not something worth voting for, or making the effort to vote for. Essentially these people were less Pro-Clinton and more Anti-Trump whereas Trump’s supporters were Pro-Trump making them more likely to vote Trump. Ultimately fear of Trump was not enough. What gives me optimism is that establishment politics is under attack from both sides. It saddens and distresses me greatly that it is the Right and a man who’s few endorsements are from groups like the KKK and NRA who is in control of the most powerful nation on earth, but I am heartened by the fact that more and more people want change to a system that is not working for them. I hope that this encourages the Left to create movements for progressive and more worthwhile change that is based less on fear, like both sides peddled this election and more on hope optimism and real reform of a world that right now is working for the few, such as Trump and Clinton and not for the many such as you and me.

* I do wish to add as a footnote that this lesser of two evils argument has come under attack from people who claim that this argument was damaging to Clinton. People are free to think whatever they want, both candidates were terrible options for America just one was worse than the other. In my opinion, this is damaging to Clinton but the truth.