by Alice Thomson

It seems like the world is going to hell. I look at my newsfeed and am presented with scenes that make me feel gut-wrenching desperation. I don’t think it’s an overstatement to say that the last year has left us horrifically battered, and that we face a future where that doesn’t look to be changing anytime soon.

2016 was a year of unrest. For me and for no doubt many others, two key events were the cause of much of the despair I feel.

The first of these events happened on June 23rd, when the UK voted to leave the European Union. The Vote Leave group being backed by UKIP, Michael Gove and Boris Johnson. The Vote Remain camp was supported by David Cameron and Nicola Sturgeon. Neither side considered honesty to be a particularly necessary cornerstone of their campaign.

The Leave group claimed £350 million a week would go into the NHS with a Leave outcome, and Gove’s infamous comment that “people in this country [UK] have had enough of experts” put the motivation and conviction of economists into question. The Remain camp were drowned out by Leave’s rhetoric, and Jeremy Corbyn’s failure to publicly show his support to Remain left many traditional Labour voters vulnerable to Brexit propaganda. This Referendum brought us the death of Jo Cox, a sharp increase in hate crime, and economic instability thanks to the plunging value of the pound.

The second of 2016’s key events happened in November, when Donald Trump was elected the 45th President of the United States of America. My jaw dropped in horror as this unfolded. A man who provokes hatred, racism, xenophobia, homophobia, transphobia, sexism. A man who spreads lies beyond belief, all under the assertion he will “Make America Great Again”. A man who is notorious for his childish Twitter rants, whose rise was accompanied by the popularising of terms like ‘Fake News’ and ‘Alternative Facts’.


Image credit: Rolling Stone

2016 started as poorly as it ended. We were only 10 days into 2016 when we lost David Bowie, and Alan Rickman followed shortly after. Over the course of the year we lost over 80 influential figures including Prince, Victoria Wood, Ronnie Corbett, Anton Yelchin, and Carrie Fisher. Some of these losses were to be expected, but many came as shocks. We started to live in fear, not wanting to mention other famous people in conversation in case it ‘jinxed’ them, and they too were added to the list.

We are now close to the first mass extinction since the Mesozoic Era.

And this was just the tip of the iceberg. We saw the refugee crisis spiralling as the war in the Middle East continued, with at least 3,000 migrants dying in dreadful circumstances as they tried to escape the conflict. The video of Omran Daqneesh went viral, showing the five-year-old Syrian boy being rescued from the rubble of his bombed home in Aleppo.

In the West we saw the Orlando Nightclub massacre, witnessing the deaths of 49 LGBT+ individuals and the injury of 53 more. The Brussels bombing killed 32 people and injured dozens at Brussels’ airport and metro station. Hurricane Matthew claimed more than 1,000 lives in Haiti and US. The attack in Nice on Bastille Day claimed 84 lives and injured several hundred others. A military coup in Turkey killed hundreds of people. Further claims of historical sexual abuse came out, with over 20 ex-footballers coming forward. And the Croydon tram crash caused 7 deaths and 51 injured.

On a bigger scale, things don’t seem to be getting any better for the environment either. We are now close to the first mass extinction since the Mesozoic Era. With the way things are going, we could lose 2/3 of the world’s wildlife by 2020. And by 2050 there could be more plastic than fish in the sea. This is due to loss of habitat, poaching, overfishing, burning of fossil fuels, over-production of meat and the rapid increase of the human population. All these elements are the result of how humans interact with their environment. 2016 saw no political or environmental action to help reduce this trajectory. With the election of Donald Trump as US President this will only get worse, as he calls climate change a ‘hoax’.

I could go on, but this is depressing and I have a wordcount to keep to. So I will come to my point.

Having read the above, are you drained? Feeling hopeless? I know I am after researching and writing it all. It was kind of the point. I’m starting to get the impression we are suffering from mass exhaustion. We are bombarded by the lies and tragedies spreading across the world. The world seems to be falling apart. Where can we even begin to make a change? What difference can we make? Depeche Mode’s ‘Where’s the Revolution?’ is on repeat in my head. There’s certainly enough injustice in the world to be revolting about.

Every day we witness a daily assault on Human Rights, environmental catastrophes, peace and equality – we are overwhelmed. With fake news and alternative facts, propaganda and downright lies, we don’t know what to believe anymore. With so much information filling our days it’s no surprise we are experiencing Compassion Fatigue. I’m starting to feel that this is the desired effect of those causing such monstrosities in our world. If we are overwhelmed and hopeless we become less of a threat. Our voices are drowned out by the accusations of snowflake liberalism. Our arguments are discredited; we no longer trust ourselves or our actions. We’re told that protesting and signing online petitions does nothing. That we are just wasting our time.

Depeche Mode’s ‘Where’s the Revolution?’ is on repeat in my head. There’s certainly enough injustice in the world to be revolting about.

It’s times like these we need to have faith. Not in a higher power, but in ourselves. As the Leave campaign liked to say, we need to ‘take back control’. Not control of others, but control of our own lives and control of the changes we wish to see in the world. We need to trust in that however small our actions, they matter. We cannot sit idly by simply because we believe our singular voice will make no difference. We cannot allow Niemӧller’s quotation ‘I did not speak out’ to become our reality. We need to be able to go to bed at night and know that even if our actions made no difference, at least we didn’t endorse these injustices.

“I always thought someone should do something, until, one day I realised I was someone.”

– Lily Tomlin

Featured image credit: Anton Corbijn & Depeche Mode

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