It is both a shame and a blessing in disguise that 2016 has highlighted so many regressive issues we face. Although this has been a horrific year of political turmoil and social unrest, there is lots we can learn from this year rather than hoping it will erase from our memories come January 1st 2017.
When we’re given the chance to incite change, we need to grasp it; this could not be emphasised enough after this year. 2016 Western politics has highlighted the contradiction between the power we should have and the power we exercise. Here I am talking specifically about our democratic duty to vote. Those of you who have read previous posts will know that I think it is pivotal more people take their vote seriously: let’s not have another Brexit-esque fiasco in the future (and by fiasco I mean the turmoil that Britain was plunged into following the referendum).
Of course, there are serious flaws with democratic systems. Some of these flaws were thrown furiously into public debate by the controversy of the Electoral College and popular vote process in America after Donald Trump’s Presidential victory. But still, the argument remains: you can only hold the system accountable if you have done all you can to help the system be as fair as possible first.
Following this, another thing that we should take from 2016 is the importance of challenging authority. Just as we should take our power seriously when it’s handed to us, we should also take our potential power seriously when what we want isn’t going to be gifted. The most inspiring example of this is the Black Lives Matter movement that erupted this year. The way that people have united over the disgraceful discrimination of police brutality in America and made it into a global effort for equality is spirit that should be celebrated from this year and carried forward.
The importance of challenging authority has also been shown more recently with the FIFA ban on British international players wearing poppies in November. Fans, players and the FA stood strong and defiant to prioritise our culture over petty rules. Solidarity is a tool that should not be underestimated after this year (although England still being awful in international competitions is something we can leave behind in 2016).
The hardest lessons we need to take from 2016 surround our humanity. Time and time again our news cycles have been filled with stories about division and tragedy that we should not want to forget. The examples are countless: the Syrian migrant crisis, the Central Italy earthquake, Jo Cox’s murder, the young footballer’s sexual abuse stories, and most recently the devastating plane crash killing almost the entire Chapecoense football team, but to name a few. We cannot control some horrific things, but the ones that we can control, we should. Equality, compassion and the desire to help are not instinctual in us all but progressing towards this is what we should take from 2016. If we do not learn from bad times, there are no assurances that the future will be any better.