Strange days indeed

As the year draws to an end, many among us are reflecting how happy we’ll be to see it go. It has been a very turbulent year, to say the least. A violent year, too, full of wars, terrorist attacks and mass shootings. The situation world-wide is precarious, with Europe teetering after Brexit and America about to embark on a potentially dangerous adventure. Elsewhere, dictators and virtual dictators rule. In the third world, populations are exploding, without the backup to ensure all these people can be fed and employed, thus making the immigration question loom ever larger.
Whether due to man-made climate change or natural causes such as storms on the sun, weather has been both strange and excessive. Floods, earthquakes, tempests and unseasonal heatwaves have been wreaking havoc in many places.

The distribution of wealth is also out of control. Disproportionately huge sums are being earned by some (even, shockingly, by people who work for charities) and spent at art auctions, on racehorses, yachts and other luxury items, while the middle classes are struggling to maintain a reasonable standard of living. Many public institutions are going bankrupt, perhaps because funds have been squandered or misappropriated for years. It is always disturbing to see people sleeping in the streets next to luxury shops in the capitals of the western world – and apparently now 25% of the population of Europe faces slipping below the poverty line. A quarter of the population – it seems incredible.

 

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In Greece, this number is 35%. Between the incapacity of the government and the misguided (self-interested?) handling of the European ‘lenders’, I feel things are going from bad to worse. I see no incentives given for a re-start of the economy, and measures taken to combat corruption and bolster institutions are implemented extremely slowly.

The refugee crisis also remains acute – and will continue to do so, as long as wars and atrocities do not abate. The situation of most of these people is dire – and, because they need to survive somehow, microcosms are formed with a dynamic of their own (for example, the Jungle in Calais) which pose problems to the host country and can only be dismantled at huge cost to all involved. It is frightening to think of the future (or lack of) faced by so many children on our planet in the 21st century. Displaced, dispossessed, uneducated – in a time where normally health and opportunities have improved and should still be improving.

Another worrying development is a rise in intolerance related to immigration but not only. I was shocked to read the following excerpt, from an article in UK newspaper The Daily Telegraph: “Some of Britain’s leading universities are becoming no-go zones for Jewish students because anti-Semitism is rife, the first ever higher education adjudicator has claimed. Baroness Deech, a cross-bench peer, said that institutions may be failing to combat hatred against Jews because they were “afraid of offending” potential benefactors from Gulf states.”
I will make no comment on the above.

This year has also been catastrophic for the music industry and its fans and followers, with the deaths of such icons as David Bowie, Prince, George Michael, and Leonard Cohen, to name the most prominent. Also of other bright names, such as actors Alan Rickman, Carrie Fisher and Gene Wilder, as well as Mohamed Ali, Fidel Castro and astronaut John Glen.

However, the year cannot have been all bad – or bad for everyone. There were successes (for example, I don’t think Usain Bolt is complaining), babies born, art and music made, things built. When I Googled ‘Good things that happened in 2016’, I got the following:
– A few animals came off the endangered list (however, quite a few others went on, so I don’t know how it balances up.)
– A solar powered plane circumnavigated the world.
– A number of scientific advances were made (especially in curing disease), including the 3-parent family (look it up, guys!)
– 70,000 Muslim clerics declared a fatwa against ISIS (about time, I should think)
-AND….wait for it…there was the launching of Pokémon Go! I joke not – this was mentioned on various sites as a major event of 2016…

This was my – no doubt biased – view of things. But maybe some of you can add to the list?

Above is a painting I’m doing for the December ArtDare which is set by RISD professor Clara Lieu at art.prof. The theme is ‘2016’. I’m trying to portray the year as I saw it – troubled and violent, as I said above. Still a work in progress.

28 thoughts on “Strange days indeed

  1. I don’t take antisemitism lightly (I’m Jewish, although that’s far from my only reason), but I’d take the comment about no-go zones for Jewish students with a tablespoon or two of salt. Just after the statement came out, I read comments by Jewish students saying that’s not their experience at all. And I’ve become used to shrugging off accusations of antisemitism in the Labour Party when what they’re really talking about is anti-Zionism. The two are not the same thing, and it trivializes the toxicity of antisemitism to pretend they are–although it can be politically convenient if you want to defend Israel from all criticism.

    My sense of the political winds is the anti-Muslim hysteria is a greater danger than antisemitism these days.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I like your painting, but can find little to cheer my thoughts about 2016. As well as the world, my family has been in turmoil, and the year overall is best forgotten. Whatever happens in 2017, it surely cannot be worse. (At least I hope so)
      I wish you and your family, and your country, some hope for 2017, and add my thanks for all your support during the past year.
      Best wishes from England as always. Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. My personal experience of 2016 was pretty good, although there were a number of changes the effect of which can’t yet be judged. I am worried about the future, though. People are very resilient, so there is hope. One of the benefits of being interested in history is that you see how people survived much worse that is happening now.

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  3. A happy-happier New Year!!! One of the “dangers” I find people doing – especially with Brexit and Trump – is to declare the past to be awful because of what they think will happen in the future! May 2017 be terrific for all of us!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. With your permission and full credits applied I would like to repost this brilliant piece of writing with which I so agree post the usual 100% . . . . I just returned from Roger Stowells’ ‘Food, Photography and France’ who headed his similar message with ‘If Heineken made a year . . . . it would not be this one’ . . . . my literary talents unable to match either of you, may I just loudly say ‘I agree’ and hope we all will still be here to wish each other a ‘Happy New Year’ at this time next year . . .,

    Like

  5. The saddest thing of all is that huge proportions of people are badly affected by the terrible actions of a very small number of people. My husband and I were discussing how there are generations of children who have never lived in peace and have no idea how life might be if they could play and learn in a safe, war-less world. My heart goes out to all. And I wish I felt like the future is going to be better than last year – but I don’t. I don’t trust Trump and company at all. They are greedy and evil power hungry demagogues.
    So on that depressing note, I wish you a happy and healthy New Year and I hope I’m wrong about everything.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. The past year has indeed been extremely strange and shocking on many fronts, but what I find most dangerous is the media and social media omnipresence where news is bad, and statistical accent on pessimism. We’re in the throes of a sea change in history, empires have always risen and fallen – the so-called Western World is in inevitable decline – , huge populations have always moved on, out of necessity or desire for new horizons. Building physical and legal walls against them is basically short-sighted.The real problem is that humanity hasn’t changed one iota despite our technology and smartphones. So maybe we’ll eventually rise out of all this like the proverbial phoenix 🙂 Best wishes and positive thoughts for the New Year!

    Liked by 2 people

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