As we enter 2017, I can never remember a year where I have felt less optimistic about the future. And, although we may be embarking on a year which will culminate in October with the centenary of the Russian Revolution, I cannot recall a more depressing year from a leftist point of view than 2016.
I am writing this just before Christmas, that annual festival of booze-fuelled consumerism that seems to be have been going on for the last six weeks. The reason it seems to have been going on for the last six weeks is that it has been going on the for the past six weeks. Christmas pretty much appears to start as soon as Hallowe’en finishes, stretched out even further by the festival of capitalism that is Black Friday.
And on this year’s Black Friday, in a hugely poignantly ironic co-incidence, Fidel Castro died. Most people did not notice at the time, as they were far too busy fighting one another in Curry’s to get the last cheap TV in the shop.
Castro’s greatest achievement, aside from the Cuban Revolution, was to live to be as old as ninety, given that the CIA spent the best part of fifty years hatching up bizarre assassination plots, including exploding cigars and booby-trapped clam shells which would blow up when he went scuba-diving. Proof that crazy, deranged right-wing thinking in the USA had existed long before the emergence of Donald Trump.
Castro was, of course, only one of the high-profile deaths of 2016. It was a year in which we also lost David Bowie, Mohammed Ali, Prince, Victoria Wood, Johann Cruyff, Alan Rickman, Terry Wogan and Ronnie Corbett. And let’s not forget the actor who played R2D2, former weathrman Iain McAskill and the bloke who invented the Heimlich Manoeuvre. However, from my point of view, the real tragedy of 2016 was not the people who died but rather it was the people who didn’t die that made it such a grim year.
It is almost as if politics in the West has entered some kind of world where we are governed by evil cartoons. With the UK governed by an unelected Cruella de Ville who has put foreign affairs in the hands of Billy Bunter’s half-witted cousin and with events in the USA resembling some dystopian episode of family guy where Peter Griffin somehow is elected President. Add to this, the presence of a Bond villain in the Kremlin, and it really is difficult to feel at all optimistic about the coming year.
Our Prime Minster may or may not have an idea of where Britain’s future and the World may lie in the future. However, with Trump and Putin already embarking on nuclear escalation, the very future of Europe itself may be very unclear in 2017. There may be no Europe for the UK to have a future relationship with.
Looking back on 2016, it is difficult to recall a more bizarre set of events unfolding. It was as if Leicester City winning the English Premier League had somehow put the karma of the entire planet into reverse gear. Put quite simply, the wrong sort of shit seemed to keep hitting the fan.
In the wake of the Brexit result and the election of Trump, I was beginning to lose all confidence in people’s ability to vote in a sensible manner. Thank goodness, Andy Murray won BBC Sports Personality of the Year. That went some way towards restoring my faith in democracy. The way people had been voting in 2016, I would not have been at all surprised if Ched Evans had won that award.
However, it is important not to view the future too bleakly. It is vital to look ahead with a degree of optimism, and a recall of past dark times that we have somehow managed to live through. Because, let’s face it, many of us of a certain age have been here before. I personally remember the utter despair that was felt when Margaret Thatcher was elected, despair that was only matched by the total devastation that was felt when she was re-elected twice afterwards. I remember the disbelief that met the election of Ronald Regan to the White House. At the time we thought it utterly incomprehensible that the USA would vote for an intellectually-challenged former B-movie actor as its Commander-in-Chief. In comparison to this year’s result, it actually now appears a comparatively wise choice.
I also remember the assassination of John F. Kennedy, and as a small child, have vague memories of the World holding its breath to see who blinked first as the USA and Soviet Union went head-to-head in the Cuban Missile Crisis. I guess the message I am trying to send to younger readers is this. I am getting really old, so 2017 may mark the last year in which this bi-monthly column of vaguely comic rambling makes even the remotest sense. Happy 2017!
Vladimir McTavish will be appearing at Monkey Barrel Comedy, Edinburgh on Friday 20 & Saturday 21 January 2017, at The Stand Comedy in Glasgow on Wednesday 25 January and at The Stand Comedy Club in Edinburgh from Thursday 26 to Sunday 29 January.