My figure of 2016? The 11th century’s King Canute, the medieval ruler of England known for posterity as the man who tried to hold back the tide in a display of regal power.
(Admittedly, this never happened, and even if it did the attempt was misunderstood, but that just makes him a perfect fit for a time when “post-truth” was named the word of the year…)
Flash-forward a millennium and imagine a modern-day King Canute opting to keep his shoes dry and deciding to get his daily dose of challenging inevitabilities by railing against the year on social media, expressing his shock at a slew of celebrity deaths with a convenient hashtag like #GoFYourself2016. That, or he himself would have died. It’s been one of those years.
2016 has been fairly awful for fans of compassion, understanding, or fans of historical pop culture. This is bound to create anger, the first stage of grief. There are many people you could direct your anger at. Donald Trump, obviously, or ISIS. I personally would relish the opportunity to hold Nigel Farage back into the tide, not to kill him but to at least wash away the transdermal layer of smugness that has accumulated as his campaign of fear and lies began to work.
You could even create something productive out of the hurt you experienced when one of your favourite stars shone out. Donate to a charity that researches cures for the cancer that killed David Bowie. Try to educate a Brexit-voting relative on the positive effects of immigration, perhaps over a delicious bowl of Polish bigos. Support a refugee.
In fact, do nearly anything but direct your anger at 2016, an arbitrary grouping of 365 days that, to paraphrase Winston Churchill, is the worst form of timekeeping (see that clunky addition of an extra day every four years like an accountant cooking the books) except for all the others. And especially don’t follow that anger with a hashtag that automatically cheapens a political statement or tribute to a fallen celebrity, no matter how true or heartfelt it is.
January 1 2017 is just one Earth rotation around its own axis different from December 31 2016. It will do nothing to change the fact that the age of mass media is old enough now where its earlier stars are aging into the final stages of their lives. Nothing to change the fact that people are angry at career politicians and an elite they feel shut off from. Nothing to change the anger and violence that meets every step forward for one groups or another’s civil rights.
The progression of time cannot change, but we can. We can stop trying to hold back the tide and instead educate ourselves about its movements.