Saturday 31 December 2016

2016 A Year in Review

Well it's New Year's Eve and I thought I'd better write a few thoughts on 2016. It's been a dramatic year both globally and for me personally.

When I reflect on 2016, I immediately think of political upheaval and celebrity deaths. It's a strange combination but when you consider the biggest news stories have been the likes of Brexit, Donald Trump becoming US President alongside the endless list of musicians, actors, sports stars and writers who have died this year, I can't think of any other stories that have dominated the year.

As we approach 2017 I don't think I've felt a greater level of uncertainty about the world I'm living in. As a history graduate I know certain years have a lasting historical importance. 1848 a year of political revolutions across Europe, 1914 and the outbreak of World War One, 1945 the end of the Second World War, 1989 and the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Will 2016 have the same historical relevance?

What's clear is that political, economic, social and cultural forces have been evolving for a number of years and the fallout from these forces has been evident throughout 2016.

When you look at Brexit and the success of Donald Trump it's been widely interpreted as a 'peoples revolt' against the elite, the establishment and the negative consequences of globalisation.

As someone who voted Remain and was against Trump's Presidential bid, I have no interest in voting for this supposed revolt. I understand many people are unhappy about the status quo which for a lot of people is no longer working for them. But I'm sceptical that this rise in anti establishment populism will some how solve many of the issues and challenges that we currently face.

Phrases like 'take back control' and 'lets make America great again' ultimately mean nothing. I never thought of myself as being an establishment sort but given the alternative that's being presented I'd rather be part of the establishment.

The world is a complex and difficult place and easy rhetoric and slogans are unlikely to solve many the big issues that we face in the 21st Century. I have a feeling that many of the people who were happy to give their respective establishments a kicking will find themselves being disappointed by the populist response in the forthcoming years.

Celebrity deaths

Famous people and celebrities die every year just like ordinary people but there's been something different about 2016 and the number of so many significant figures.

I found myself surprised by my level of feelings for certain celebrities. In January we said goodbye to David Bowie. Out of all this year's celebrity deaths I would say Bowie's had the biggest impression on me. When you think about Britain's biggest and most iconic rock and pop stars from the 1960s and 70s, David Bowie was my favourite artist.

You simply can't imagine the history of British pop and rock without him. As is the way in these situations you start to look back on an artist's back catalogue. I decided to download two of Bowie's 70s albums Young Americans (his blue eyed soul era) and Low, part of the famous Berlin trilogy.

If Bowie is one of my favourite British artists, than Prince is one of my favourite American artists. I always have and always will love the versatility of Prince. Rock, pop, soul, funk, jazz, he could do it all. Another artist whose music defines my musical upbringing.

Finally I was shocked and saddened George Michael's sudden death last week. Another artist whose music defined an era for those of use who grew up in the 80s. An incredibly talented artist who know that he's gone, I'm reminded of what a talented singer and song writer he was. I downloaded his 1996 album Older in memory. A great album.

In sport we lost Muhammad Ali and Johan Cruff. Ali is the most iconic and I think the most significant sports star of the 20th century. His achievements as a boxer and sportsman stand alone but his greatness comes also from the kind of person he was and his impact and influence on the public's consciousness.

As for Cruyff, how can any true football fan not love Cruyff the player and his managerial legacy that lives on with Barcelona. The true legend of the game.

Those are just some of the celebrities whose passing had an impact on me. I'm sure you and everyone else will have your own personal memories for people whose career had some influence and relevance to your life.

It doesn't matter whether we personally knew these people, their deaths remind us of the influence of popular culture. As our societies become more fragmented and individualist. TV, film, music and sport provide us with forms of art that we can experience and consume on a collective basis.

The music we listen to, the sports, films, and tv we watch help define who we are as people and when those individuals who have helped create the cultural experience die it naturally has an effect on us.

2016: My own personal experience

2016 has been the most significant year of my life due to the fact that my Dad passed away on the 15 February.

The sense of sadness that overwhelms me just by typing the last sentence is huge. My Dad had been ill for 12 months and had spent 2 and half months in hospital in 2015 as he was treated for kidney failure and blood cancer.

At the beginning of 2016 I knew it was unlikely that he would survive the year. On the day he died I remember sitting in his hospital room with him lying lifeless on the bed next to me. I remember thinking 'how have we reached this point so quickly?' Life passes by so quickly as you get older.

I'm grateful and happy that my Dad was in my life from day one and that I never went more than two months without seeing him. I think about him everyday.