It is a testament to their cushioned, detached lives that so many in the political and media classes have described 2016 as the worst year ever. They’ve moaned about 2016. Memed about it. Written books about it. ‘Dark Age’, ‘populism’, ‘fascism’, ‘END TIMES’ – the keywords of the 2016 haters.
I guess none of these people lost their homes in 2008, eh? Or their jobs in the fallout from that crash. Or their feeling of political power over the past three decades of rising technocracy and shrinking democracy. Never mind their historical illiteracy. What does 2016 have on 1347 or 1914 in terms of awfulness? Nothing, of course. If you think 2016 was an unspeakably bad year, then all that tells us is you’ve led a cloistered, lovely life, blind to the economic deprivations and sense of political exclusion experienced by others these past years. Bully for you.
Sadly, these people’s narrative, their Brexit-bashing, Trump-fearing interpretation of 2016 as a most awful year, is becoming the narrative. Because they have the newspaper columns, the book contracts, the platforms. Everyone who disagrees with them is ‘post-truth’. Every vote that toppled their Third Way worldview was an act of hatred. Every revolt against the EU is racism, every criticism of Hillary misogyny, and every mention of ‘the elite’ evidence that people are beholden to a new fascism, because didn’t the Nazis also bash ‘the elites’? ‘Sixteen reasons why 2016 was the worst year ever’, their mad headlines declare.
Enough. We can’t let their tantrums, their petty fury that their political outlook has taken a pounding, come to define 2016. For this has been the most exciting political year since 1989. Here are five reasons why.
It’s the year we said ‘We can say that’
If there’s one line that sums up the 21st-century political elite, it’s ‘You Can’t Say That!’. From immigration to multiculturalism, climate change to the EU, the response of the political class to awkward questioning is always: ‘Stop, you can’t say that.’ They have an armoury of libels to deploy against people who think and say the ‘wrong’ things. Question eco-orthodoxy, and you’re a climate-change denier. Wonder if immigration should be done differently, and you’re racist. Oppose the EU, you’re Europhobic. The aim is to shush through shame. To stifle certain kinds of public opinion. All to the end of protecting status-quo thought, of erecting a deflective shield around the low horizons, moral relativism and turn to technocracy that define modern Western elites.
Then along comes 2016 and says: ‘Actually, we can say that.’ This year people said the things they’re not meant to say. Not fascistic things – it’s a nasty fantasy of the cut-off classes that Europe and America are packed with prejudiced idiots. No, people said: we’re not sure about technocracy; we think nations should be sovereign; we think concrete values are more important than the mushy pseudo-cosmopolitanism you’ve been foisting on us; we think feeling like you belong to a particular community is not racism. The forcefield protecting the political class from public opinion has been badly shattered. We’re witnessing revolts against PC.
It’s the year TINA was sent packing
‘You Can’t Say That’ was the guardian of TINA – There Is No Alternative. This deadening notion – that this is the way society is, and there’s no other way it can be – has reigned since the days of Thatcher, who first uttered it. It became enshrined in the Third Way of the Blair/Clinton years, an explicit eschewing of the polarising political battles of old in favour of managerialism. And it became the defining feature of the EU. This vast bureaucracy is a technocratic suppressant of the unresolved questions of history, whether on sovereignty or democracy, nationhood or class. The key message of the EU is that society isn’t something to be argued over, far less transformed; it’s something to be managed.