What a 2016 of a year. Never again | Peter Lewis

2016 set to take its place alongside 9/11, 24/7 and 360 as numerical descriptors that become words

There are a very few numbers that carry with them so much surplus meaning that they take on the qualities of a word: think 9/11, 24/7, 360, maybe 3.141592.

This year we have a new numerical descriptor that is sure to become part of the lingo: a four-numeral word that elegantly describes the folly of under-estimating our collective capacity to make irrational and destructive decisions. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you 2016.

And hasn’t 2016 been a total 2016 of a year?

Time and time again we have been blindsided by our own stupidity, so caught up in the noise and the colour of the moving pictures that we couldn’t read the consequences of the action unfolding before our eyes.

The triumph of Donald Trump is the most obvious expression of 2016 as we delighted in Hillary Clinton’s smash-up in the debates and the constant stream of pussy grab-ees and the sheer ridiculousness of the proposition that he could be the most powerful man in the world until it was too late and he was.

But the Trump election victory was not an isolated act of 2016, more an end point, as anyone who was anyone found fresh and compelling ways to shoot themselves in the foot.

David Cameron 2016ed himself out of Number 10 and into the history books as one of the worst British prime ministers ever as he green-lighted a procession from Europe into isolationism that he thought too ridiculous to be a serious threat.

Malcolm Turnbull 2016ed marriage equality by kidding himself he could deliver a solution that would unite his conservative spear-throwers and his inner east electorate with the one deft belly-flop.

Fans of Julian Assange had a 2016 as they watched their hero diminish himself from global cyber-warrior into an inconsequential pawn in the Russian president’s plans to promote his interests by weakening America.

Everywhere you look, the spirit of 2016 converted dreams into folly.

Respondents to this week’s Essential Report agree this was a total 2016 of a year.

Thinking about the last 12 months, has it been a good or bad year for each of the following?

It was a 2016 for the Australian economy that enters Christmas with a treasurer clinging desperately to his AAA credit rating, sideswiped by a sudden realisation that you can’t reduce a budget deficit with rhetoric alone.

It was a 2016 of a year for small business too as they came to the hollow realisation that a government that doesn’t control the Senate is less than assured of delivering on a much-hyped tax cut.

It was also a 2016 of a year for the union movement which was enlisted as the prime minister’s fig leaf as he sought an excuse for the double dissolution that went within a whisker of dissolving him.

It was total a 2016 of a year for the average Australian who discovered a prime minister who uses the offshore facilities of Mossack Fonseca is hardly likely to be champion of stamping out the tax evasion endemic in big business and the uber-wealthy.

We actually thought the year was OK for us in our homes and our own workplaces but maybe that was part of what made it a 2016 of a year as well: we were looking in and taking refuge in the small picture as the bigger view become more and more appalling.

Because it was an absolute 2016 of a year for politics and the democratic idea that the people always get it right as a backlash against the system saw people latch on to crude ideas and cruder showmen playing to national pride and turning the world in on itself.

Last but in no ways least it was a complete and utter 2016 of a year for a planet crying out for international cooperation to meet the existential threat of global warming.

Instead of moving on from Paris and setting meaningful targets for lower emissions and plan for just energy transitions we now have a climate denier in the White House who ties his nation’s future to finding new ways to extract and burn carbon and an Australian government which is not a whole lot better.

If that’s not enough, the planet faces a leader in the White House with an itchy trigger finger, a suspicion of complexity and a desire to buddy up with fellow despots with expansive territorial aspirations. How very 2016.

And that’s not the end of it. This week’s poll shows we fear 2017 will be a total 2016 of a year as well – if not worse.

Thinking about the next 12 months, do you think 2017 will be a good or bad year for each of the following?

While we head to the summer break hoping to put 2016 to bed, the sad reality is that 2016 looms as an ongoing state of collective delusion.

So here’s my resolution for the year to come.

No more laughing at stupidity. No more assuming people will understand the joke’s on them. No more waving lies and untruths through to the keeper. No more naive optimism.

I won’t just shake my head and roll my eyes anymore because 2016 has proven that the stakes are too high.

I will shout out at hypocrisy from those in power and not jump onto the next outrage before I have dealt with the one in front of me.

I will search hard for new ways to shake myself out of my complacency and break through the white noise that is dulling all of our ability to tell fact from fiction, right from wrong.

And I will do my best to hold the mirror up for my fellow Guardian readers, no matter how unseemly the visage, one poll at a time.

Herein lies my credo: 2016. Never again.


Peter Lewis

The GuardianTramp

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