"Hi, Dad, anything new in the paper today?" - Jay Sherman
"Oh, usual stuff. Big type, here. Little type, here." - Franklin Sherman
As I write this, the internet is brimming with people bidding a farewell to 2016, a year where everything seemed to get worse. In order to keep this short enough to finish, I will refrain from recounting specifics. Simply noting the functional collapse of the U.S. political system combined with 2016 being the hottest year on record should suffice as a generalized reminder.
There's a lot of dread in the air among people who pay attention to the way things work. The rickety systems that undergird so much of our mostly peaceful, mostly abundant, mostly free country and world all seem to be failing at once. More than any single catastrophe, that overall cascade of deterioration fuels the dread.
If the collective horrors that ruined 2016 were an aberration, then we could bounce back this morning and start afresh. But 2016 wasn't a blip, it was a culmination of trends and problems that have been allowed to fester and worsen for decades. Given the extended pedigree of the denial, ignorance, and stupidity that brought last year about, there's no reason to believe that 2017 won't stack bodies even higher as the survivors dig into ever deeper holes.
- Internet security experts have been screaming for years that the information system upon which the world now depends is massively vulnerable to all kinds of deliberate attacks. From DDoS bots that work on unfathomable scales to critical national infrastructure like the DNC's email setup, the internet and the people who use it (a/k/a everyone) have never been more vulnerable.
- The devolution of the American media ecosystem into a gossip driven infotainment cesspool started decades ago with corporate consolidation and the deprecation of real journalism from a public trust into just another source of revenue. Newspapers get bought by incompetent private equity people and shed reporters while PR has a hiring boom and billion dollar entities like Facebook and Google sell ads with conspiracy mongering that used to be the province of poorly xeroxed newsletters.
- The ever increasing reliance of political parties on wealthy donors has left both the Republican and Democratic establishments beholden to economic philosophies that harm the great majority of Americans. The Republicans are far (FAR) worse, of course. But the Democratic establishment isn't willing to even contemplate the kind of taxes on the rich that would allow us to have decent roads, clean water, good schools, and available healthcare. The donor class has assumed uninterrupted power. (That said, the Democrats may be reformable, whereas at this point the Republican Party is little more than a suicide pact in business casual.)
- 2016 was the warmest year on record and saw extreme weather of the kind that shrinks food supplies, costs billions, and squeezes more and more refugees into hostile and unwelcoming lands. Oh, and years as calm and cool as 2016 are going to be few and far between very soon. Speaking of refugees...
- 2016 saw more people displaced from their homes than at any time since World War II. This trend has been increasing for decades and is likely to get worse in 2017.
- American (and Western, more generally) bombing of foreign lands - the root cause of the subsection of global violence that gets labeled "terrorism" - has continued unabated and with gusto since 2001. It will not slow under the new Administration, and, therefore, neither will the blowback from it.
- The wealthiest and most powerful organization in history is about to be led by Donald Trump. 'Nuf said.
Even celebrity deaths - the bright, shiny dollop of shit atop 2016's sundae of awful - are going to get worse. Television massively expanded the number of famous people, and it's now seven decades old. There are simply a lot more deaths out there that will resonate with people than there used to be, and a background hum of deceased famous people should be expected as the default more or less from now on.
TL;DR: 2016 sucked, and the reasons it sucked are still with us as we start 2017, which is likely to be even worse.
Fixing the fundamental problems listed above (and there are more than just those) is the only way to turn things around. Perhaps 2017 will see at least some of them reversed, but that seems unlikely. So as happy as many people are to bid farewell to that terrible year, we may miss it. Things are going to get worse.
Happy(?) New Year. Only 364 days to 2018.