On 18th December 2015, US magazine The Atlantic published an article under the headline ‘2015: The Best Year in History for the Average Human Being’. In it, writer Charles Kenny said that, despite a number of tragedies (the Bataclan shootings, ISIS in Syria) and widespread poverty in developing countries, 2015 “saw continued progress towards better quality of life for the considerable majority of the planet, alongside technological breakthroughs and political agreements that suggest the good news might continue next year and beyond. Tragedy and misery are rarer than they were before 2015 – and there is every reason to hope they will be even less prevalent in 2016.”
It’s tempting to just scoff at this comment and dismiss Kenny’s point, given what has unfolded over the past 12 months. But, in doing so, you would be falling into a very ‘2016’ trap: the world – the actual, IRL world – can’t just be quantified by a selection of Twitterstorms and newspaper headlines. Progress in each sector and in each country is so rapid that it’s very difficult to keep up with the massively complex web that is our modern world. As a senior fellow at the Center For Global Development, that is part of Kenny’s job, and he actually thinks that us humans are making a good fist of it, overall (the environment, global refugee crises and huge levels of child poverty notwithstanding). Yet, I’m sure Kenny and his fellow analysts at the CGD will have noticed the palpable sense of anxiety of the ‘average human being’ in the Western world as we enter the final act of 2016. It’s hardly surprising that fear has taken hold, especially when you note that the past 12 months has served us a volatile cocktail of poverty (both real and perceived), post-truth facts, and the towering self-awareness of the internet and its myriad trolls. Personally, I wouldn’t mind taking my chances in The Upside Down for 2017.
In looking back at this year of high intrigue and attempting to draw a thread through various notable events, we picked out some musical milestones in our 2016 Review to put a soundtrack to some important narratives that have sprung up during the year. And in his Brexit 2.0 leader column, our American correspondent Evan Moynihan draws some comparisons between the two votes that have come to define all of 2016’s ills: Brexit and the US presidential election. We’re well aware that what we’ve chosen and how we’ve written about it is highly subjective – and that’s kind of the point. We could have filled up a whole issue about the year’s tumultuous goings on, and we were tempted to do just that. In the end, though, we thought we’d leave it to those better suited to providing that coverage (and I highly recommend Delayed Gratification magazine in that sense), but we would really like to hear your own thoughts about the issues, records, protests, movements, articles and banging singles that define the year 2016 for you. In December we’ll be publishing some further thoughts from our team of contributors in an Annual Review over on our new-look website, and we want to include the selections of our readers as part of it (yes, Silentlikeradar, that means you too – if you can refrain from personal insults for long enough to put a coherent sentence together, that is). Tweet us, Facebook us or post us your ideas.
During her speech at the Conservative party conference in October, Theresa May gave the biggest indication yet of how far away from the post-war consensus of enlightenment and togetherness the political centre ground has moved, when she declared: “If you’re a citizen of the world, you’re a citizen of nowhere.” This echoes the major regression that I believe we’ve made in all of our political and societal discourse over the past year or so, namely that we must choose one side or another. IN or OUT, Trump or Clinton, Momentum or Progress, Honey G or Ryan Lawrie: humanity is a massively varied and complex beast, which shouldn’t be straitjacketed by boiling our broad spectrum of beliefs into a choice between one side or another.
The way to combat this simplistic, divisive way of looking at the world is to engage in debate, but even that seems to be an art form that we’ve lost somewhere along the way. Instead of reasoned discussion, we shout at each other from behind our fortified positions of beliefs, and put labels on each other for convenience (alt. right = ‘racist’, liberal = ‘social justice warrior’). In so many ways, we’ve never been so connected to each other, yet we’ve never felt so divided. Our reliance on soundbites and fast news in 140 characters has made us lazy, and this breeds a dangerous form of stubbornness when it comes to assimilating opposing viewpoints. Without the willingness to listen to and understand the arguments of others, we’re in danger of becoming too entrenched in our own beliefs. And if we can’t look beyond the borders of our own self-constructed barriers, we’re forever doomed to conflict.
Furthermore, what’s just as important as listening to opinions from outside of your immediate sphere is trying to understand the underlying motivations that might be behind them. Anxieties over uncertain futures and an erosion of national identity are the two biggest factors that have arisen in our country of late, fuelling the lurch towards a more populist right. In response to Theresa May’s comments, philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah expressed his worries about how we confuse our sense of identity with our ideas of nationality, religion and race. “It’s just an error of history to say if you’re a nationalist, you can’t be a citizen of the world,” Appiah said before he delivered this year’s Reith lecture on Mistaken Identities. “Nationalism and globalisation go hand in hand and are not, as Theresa May has said, opposing projects… Nationality, religion, both have always been fluid and evolving, that’s how they have survived.”
I’m going to finish by taking a leaf from Charles Kenny’s book in putting some positive spin on looking ahead to the new year. What we saw when bouncing from venue to venue during Liverpool Music Week’s epic Closing Party was the massive potential of the docklands area in the north of the city. There’s something that just feels right about those empty warehouses being retooled by the creative sector and having new life breathed into them. With Liverpool City Council’s ‘10 Streets’ Cultural Enterprise Industry Hub looking to come online in that area of the city (between the business district and Stanley Dock) in 2017, things are looking decidedly rosy. Not to be left behind, the Baltic Quarter looks to cement its position as a creative hub with the new Northern Lights development near to the Cains Brewery site, which is already a home to some great startups. Cities are always evolving; they are living, breathing entities that move in time with circumstance and opportunity. It has ever been thus with Liverpool, and it feels like we’re on the cusp of even more exciting developments. Talking of evolutions, we’ll soon be unveiling a new look for Bido Lito!, both on our fancy, facelifted digital home at bidolito.co.uk and in these pink pages. Be prepared to get involved in the debate with us about how we want to shape this next stage of progress on both of these platforms.
“How many times does an angel fall?/How many people lie instead of talking tall?”