As we reach the end of arguably the most miserable 12 months in recent memory, Getintothis’ Jono Podmore calls for death to 2016 and tries to find some positives amongst the rubble.
Celebrity Deaths of 2016 considered as an uphill bicycle race;
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, slated to race, was scratched.
Lemmy, the starter, pulling out his clepsydra or water clock, an operation which wet his hands unless he had merely spit on them — Lemmy gave the send-off.
Bowie got away to a good start.
In those days, according to the excellent sports commentator Prince, it was customary to flagellate the sprinters at the start the way a coachman whips his horses. The whip both stimulates and gives a hygienic massage. Bowie, then, got off in good form, but he had a flat right away. A bed of thorns punctured the whole circumference of his front tyre….
I was putting off writing this XXXmas bumper spleen special in the fear that the current celeb death rate would render it obsolete before another night was out. [shit! Zsa zsa Gabor just died….]
Whatever way you look at it, the morbidity of the great and good in our culture and beyond in 2016 has been astonishing. Shortly after the death of Prince an article appeared on how, statistically at least, this year had no more celeb mortality than previous years, it was simply a matter a particular age group, or something. But as the grim reaper slashed more deeply into the ranks of our cultural heritage the article disappeared in a miasma of shame. Icons were queuing up to throw themselves on the pyre, to the point where as I sat at my computer on December 9 my first thought was “I wonder who’s died today?”
Here’s a very personal role call:
Lemmy: December 28 (2015)
David Bowie: January 10
Natalie Cole: January 11
Alan Rickman: January 14
Maurice White: Feb 3
George Martin: March 8
Keith Emerson: March 11
Prince: April 21
Burt Kwouk: May 24
Muhammed Ali: June 3
Jo Cox MP: June 16
Alan Vega: July 16
Kenny Baker: August 13
Gene Wilder: August 29
Don Buchla: September 14
Bhumibol Adulyadej, King of Thailand: October 13
Pete Burns: October 23
Jean Jaques Perrey: November 4
Leonard Cohen: November 7
Robert Vaughn: November 11
Andrew Sachs: November 23
Fidel Castro: November 25
Greg Lake: December 7
John Glenn: December 8
Rick Parfitt: December 24
George Michael: December 25
A more complete list is here
Some of these losses change the world because we are all poorer without these people, others because they leave a vacuum to be filled by lesser, more venal mortals, some because their deaths signify a sickness in our culture.
Non-Celeb deaths were also mounting up at an alarming rate. My father died on January 31 after battling a panoply of diseases for years, and the death toll in the Syrian civil war reached and then surpassed the 300,000 mark including 86,000 civilians. Of course those numbers will have swollen with the recent excesses of brutality in Aleppo.
Let’s add the name Ishmael Mohammed to the list – a real child who met an utterly pointless, brutal death in 2016. Babies are not rebels, or loyalist, are not Sunni, Shia, Alawite, Jewish or Christian. They are not puppets of the US or Saud, Iran or Russia. They are babies.
There were two other remarkable deaths in 2016: truth and democracy.
The Oxford Dictionaries word of the year for 2016 is post-truth, the definition being “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief’.
There is another, rather old fashioned term for these “appeals to emotion and personal belief” – outright fucking lies.
Jonathan Friedland makes a clear case in this article that there is a strong link between a flat refusal to accept objective truth and the extreme right, starting with holocaust denier David Irving and leading to Donald Trump, Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage. The last three are all success stories in the post-truth world of 2016, meaning quite simply three barefaced, outright liars. People who have sought and gained power and wealth through lies and dishonesty and who have been rewarded richly for their mendacity and shameless opportunism in 2016.
Spin-doctors were once considered grubby operators on the borderlines between truth and lies, but with the £350 million Brexit bus and denial of Russian involvement in the US election, spin has been replaced with knowing, self-evident lies. Not only do these repulsive men seem capable of surviving in public life with such clear dishonesty behind them, the confusion caused by their tactics leads people to support their populist antics even more.
The tactic of calling judges who are appointed to uphold defined points of law “enemies of the state” was not unknown to the German National Socialists and Italian Fascists of the 30s. Wilful ignorance now has its hands on the levers of power. In a world where no information can be trusted people align themselves with the lies they prefer, lies that comfort them about the Greatness of their imaginary Britain, about getting their country back from people who never took it.
Tactically sowing confusion is also part of the racket that is the Syrian civil war. At the cost of mounting innocent casualties and the culture of the Middle East as a whole, every participant organisation in this war is aligning itself with conflicting causes and organisations. In the ensuing confusion Syria remains, and will remain, unstable; thereby keeping the land, its oil and its people open for exploitation by some of the most unscrupulous of corporate, criminal and national forces on the planet. And yet our politicians and our media either look away or simply lie. Reports from on the ground differ radically from the mainstream media storyline.
It seems the quote “If you don’t read the newspaper you are uninformed, if you do read the newspaper you are misinformed” was never more true than today, although ironically no-one really seems to know who actually said it.
But the death of truth is only part of the reason we can also write an obituary for democracy. Democracy: that hallowed principle that not so long ago our nations so valiantly went to war for, is now itself pushing up daisies.
What killed democracy is not just the end of reliable information for the electorate, but also the Russian involvement in the US election and voters’ utter lack of faith in the very process of elections.
Many of those who voted to leave the EU in the Brexit referendum believed their votes to be so meaningless that they threw them away on the most idiotic cause – only to find, to their horror, that their votes did mean something after all and they had plunged their oh so great Britain, and perhaps our neighbours, into an economic, social and cultural maelstrom that is only just brewing. They knew they were being told lies, but the process of being lied to itself so diminished the currency of their vote that they simply cast it in petulance at the system as a whole.
Perhaps even more sinister is the precedent set by the US election. There was always the joke about elections having to be cancelled in socialist countries as the results had been lost, but now the very last threads of faith we can have in free and fair elections, if the outcome has any economic impact on wealthy competitors, have to be called in to question. It’s easy to blame the internet and social networking, but it’s people who are prodding away at those computers across the world, people who are being paid to undermine the validity of elections. It’s those people, their freedom to operate and their motivation that need to be tackled, not the tools at their disposal.
To overcome the disillusionment, the devaluing of the corrupt and now decaying system, will take an enormous concerted and honest, internationally policed, effort. But as our nations continue to be governed by half-wits (Mrs May and Mr Johnson), fraudsters (Mr Trump), Fascists (Ms Le Pen), bullies (Mr Putin) with all the attendant gamblers, racists, gangsters and cronies in their entourage, I see little chance of that happening any time soon.
Some people didn’t die in 2016.
Take Her Majesty the Queen for example. She is currently being sent victorious, happy and glorious beyond her 90th birthday earlier this year.
I’ve always loathed the royals, the incestuous pack of gangsters at the very heart of the corruption in the British establishment, but since my mother died of a curable but idiotically undetected cancer in 2009, it’s personal.
My mother and Her Madge were near contemporaries, with in many ways similar family lives. But my mother’s life was marked with lost opportunities due to poverty and an untimely death, whilst Elizabeth on the basis of the accident of birth alone receives the finest health care and endless opportunity to express every whim. Every day that she survives my mother rankles. While our parents are dying prematurely of preventable and treatable conditions, Elizabeth Saxe-Coburg-Gotha sails on into the sunset of her choice. No austerity for your majesty. No decrepit old people’s home, no chemical cosh as her savings, her children’s inheritance, are whittled away in the last and most degrading transferal of wealth to the corporations we will endure.
No. That’s not for the likes of Her Majesty.
We will never be a grown-up country while this indescribable injustice is at the heart of our establishment. The existence of this absurdity keeps a door open for the “grubby little opportunists” of UKIP, to enter the fray with their nostalgic vision of an imaginary past perfect with the monarchy at the helm. The smartest among them (not many I’d bet) know this is nonsense, but it’s a nonsense that wields enormous power with the poor, the ignorant and the scared.
With the EU referendum and the murder of Jo Cox MP, the expression of the petty xenophobic mind-set in the UK gathers pace. By contrast I have been involved with and witnessed some transformative work in Germany with the refugees that they have absorbed – over one million. A test of the quality of our media is to Google “refugees in Germany”. Top of the list are scaremongering articles from the Daily Express, right wing media hammering home the idea that there is a crisis in Germany with a torrent of exploitative rapists running riot in the nation.
The reality, in my albeit limited but first hand experience, is that the local population, many of who can remember being refugees themselves after WW2, are organising charity events, giving regular language lessons, inviting refugees into their homes to kick start integration; quietly offering organised tangible support to people who have survived unthinkable trauma and conditions. It’s very touching and very real.
Meanwhile, according to the British Red Cross: “There are an estimated 117,234 refugees living in the UK. That’s just 0.18 per cent of the total population (64.1 million people).” In other words – next to nothing. No strain on local infrastructure, no need for the sort of grassroots initiative that I’ve witnessed in Germany. Since Brexit, there has been one more death. The idea that British culture should be regarded as fair, generous and understanding has also passed away. The leave campaign and its subsequent victory have reduced us to an insignificant island of bitter, selfish little shits.
Nevertheless, let us not get down in the mouth!
It’s Christmas and there’s plenty to look forward to!!
2016 wasn’t all doom and gloom!!!
In fact let’s take a leaf out of President Obama’s book, who, whilst trying to come to terms with a Trump presidency said: “It’s easy to be hopeful when things are going well, …but when you need to be hopeful is when things are at their worst.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself, Barack! So let’s concentrate on some of the best of 2016.
The DJs whose work I began to really appreciate this year all seemed to be women – a breath of fresh air in the macho world of the wheels of steel. Two of the best have mixes on line for us all to enjoy over the festive season:
Musician Riz Maslen DJs under the moniker Neotropic and posts a riveting and eclectic 90 min mix every month. There’s another album of her own stuff due out soon too.
Xoli Ngcoza is a South African DJ living in New York whose skills are equally broad, drawing on her deep knowledge of African music, a skill which she compliments with some nifty knitting.
Not only did London vote for a competent Labour mayor in Sadiq Khan, sending a message of openness and understanding to a world sliding in to kneejerk prejudice against Muslims, but London also voted AGAINST the pompous, privileged bigotry of Zac Goldsmith. Londoners then sealed the fate of this mendacious millionaire upstart in the Richmond Park byelection. Goodbye Zac! The result was also a kick in the teeth for the government’s incompetent and muddled hard-Brexit charade, not to mention the disgusting racist mayoral campaign.
I was lucky enough to see some fabulous live music this year. This Heat’s first gigs in decades got the year moving, then the giants of Cleveland contrariness Pere Ubu dropped in on their enormous 2016 tour. I even bought the t-shirt. Gig of the summer was Keiji Heino and Charles Hayward’s glorious improvised assault on Peckham, and a trip to Berlin was in order to see Mark Ernestus’ Ndagga Rhythm Force deliver astonishing musicianship with complete ease.
Early 2016 was nightmarish for me personally. After my father’s death, other elderly relatives of mine began falling downstairs and cracking their heads open, as well as some other deeply personal issues. I looked at the list of what I was having to deal with, realised it was too much to tackle alone and checked in for therapy. It was my first time and it’s a big step to take, but a step I would heartily recommend to anyone with too much on his or her emotional plate.
Despite (or perhaps due to) the sterling efforts of my therapist, by far the best thing about the whole process was that it ended. After a certain amount of sessions she said to me, “you seem to be fine now – I don’t think you need to see me again”. No one had actually ever given me a clean bill of mental health… 2016 was the year I became officially sane.
So by the same token, maybe the best thing about 2016 is that it’s nearly over – and that we survived. Unlike the long list of the deceased above we are still here. Some very cruel and selfish people are in positions of power all over the world, but with their rise in 2016 we know who they are and we know their shortcomings. We also know their methods. Who knows, 2017 could see a backlash against the right-wing as people begin to realise these new fascists do not have their interests at heart, but the interests of their paymasters.
It’s all to play for, so have a wonderful Christmas and let’s start 2017 lean and mean!