‘What unites us means more than what divides us’

In terms of current affairs, 2016 has not been the year for planet earth. Personally I have had an amazing year (potentially one of the best of my life) and I am going to do a separate reflection post on that in the coming days, however equally I think that this has been one of the worst years for society and I wanted to reflect on that. My personal blog post would be very happy/optimistic and I didn’t want to ignore the upsetting and drastic events that have happened in the world and to other people this year, some that have touched me more than others. It’s naive to believe that this year hasn’t changed society as we know it… I’m a person who adores current affairs, I love keeping up to date and learning about humanity and conflict. It links to my love for human nature and society, and why I take the subjects I take at college. It fascinates me to see 2016 unfold and how people react to particular events. One of my favourite quotes (said after 9/11) is ‘and on that horrible day, a nation became a neighbourhood’, which in my opinion couldn’t sum up current events this year anymore. As much as these brutal things have happened this year people have come together and shown solidarity in such beautiful ways.

It is impossible to count how many events and upsetting discussions there has been this year in the media, and it is also impossible for me to write about them all so instead I have chosen to talk about the main news stories of the year, and also only the ones that have touched me personally. As much as some events are horrible and I completely sympathise with everyone involved, I couldn’t connect with them. However a number of them genuinely upset me, or sparked opinion and these are the ones that I want to talk about…. Because I’m passionate about them and if you can’t talk about your passion then what can you talk about?  

A quick disclaimer is that the majority of the images that I have used throughout this blog post do not belong to me and I give full credit to the photographers that did take them. I have not seen these events first hand and instead through a screen, these images I have saved throughout the year when I think they explain the story better than words ever could, after all a picture paints a thousand words.  

This year has probably had the most deaths of influential people that the world has seen, and even though some names are bigger than others it is very rare that a week has gone by this year without a death of somebody in the media. Thinking about deaths of 2016 the immediate and most poignant ones that come to mind are Alan Rickman, Gene Wilder, Bowie, Prince and most recently George Michael However the one that clearly stands out in my eyes was Muhammad Ali who sadly passed away at the beginning of June. Ali has always been on my list when asked ‘if you could invite 5 people for a dinner party who would you invite?’ and I view him as a huge inspiration, so it was very upsetting to hear that he had passed away. I don’t know why I looked up to Ali, it’s not like his goals or achievements were anything similar to mine, but I can remember seeing the quote ‘float like a butterfly, sting like a bee’ in a coffee shop when I was around 6 and since then I have always been intrigued by him and his story. His death was certainly something that touched me this year.

‘Don’t quit, suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion’

Acts of terrorism have been one of the most harrowing series of events that have happened over 2016. I appreciate that terrorist attacks are not a new thing to appear in 2016 but this is arguably the worst that the world has seen. So much so that I think the reaction to these attacks are lessened now due to the quantity of which they come in, they don’t appear to have the same effect in the media compared to what they did (I completely disagree with this however that is certainly a post for another time).

The one act of complete malice that I connected with the most this year is certainly the Orlando shooting in Pulse nightclub. It was the biggest mass shooting in modern US history and unfortunately took the lives of 49 homosexual people and injured a further 53. Now this hit me hard and it did for a number of ways. The first is that Orlando is a place that is very close to my heart, I have been there numerous times over my life (I actually travelled there a week after the attacks) and I adore it, so it was horrible to see something so cruel happen to somewhere that I love and are familiar with. I think the second reason is because the shooting happened in a gay nightclub, and the attack was solely focused on the killings of innocent homosexual people. I am a firm believer of love is love, people can have feelings for whoever they want to and there shouldn’t be any negative reciprocations of that. At the end of the day everyone is human and everyone has the right to fall in love, and if that is between two people of the same sex, or between transgender people, or between two straight people then that’s completely okay… Everything is okay. I have seen the world become more acceptant of this, and yet when something like this happens it feels like humanity have taken one step forward and a hundred steps back.


However something that was so beautiful about the Orlando attacks was how everyone reacted afterwards, it was amazing to see the world come together and support people in need, reaching out and as I mentioned earlier ‘become a neighbourhood’. In Orlando I saw people queuing to donate blood to those in hospital beds, waving rainbow flags at every corner to support and console the rest of the LGBT community. It’s only a small thing, but I was inspired to create a rainbow makeup look after the attacks (see cover photo of this post) and the amount of support on the post was the most overwhelming I have ever had, there were people who got caught up in the attacks that commented and shared and took something from my work, it was so nice to see a ripple of community that came from the smallest gesture that I did.

 

The most talked about topic in Britain this year has to be Brexit. It just has to be. I don’t think a day has gone by on the news in 2016 where Britain leaving the EU has not been mentioned. The vast majority of the UK Population are fed up of talking about it, but it divided the nation completely (48 to 52) and it was a very contrasting opinion… one which sparked so much debate and discussion. People love conversations that don’t have a right or wrong answer, it makes for perfect debate which is good in the run up but ultimately it comes with a lot of people being unhappy when the votes are counted and a decision is made. Personally I was one of the people that were unhappy with the votes (as with the majority of the teenage population) but at the end of the day it was a democratic vote and that is what the majority of Britain would like. I am apprehensive yet excited to see what article 50 brings and the official ‘divorce settlement’ of our nation and the EU.


A definite positive of the year were the olympics over the summer months. I think it just proved that even after all of the horrible events that have happened over the previous months, people can come together and work as a team, and have competition but in a peaceful and supportive way. Alongside all of the negative current affairs, seeing images of people coming together was lovely and for some reason the olympics always seems to put people in a good spirit. One of the most iconic images of the games and one which I saved immediately after I saw it was an image of two gymnasts, one from North Korea and one from South Korea, taking a selfie together. I adore this photo because it shows that behind the conflict are two people that do not care about history and only care about being friends. If only the whole world could come together like this and look past the hardship and war.

‘If you take out the labels, you realise we are far more alike than what we are different’


Politics is always a hard topic to discuss as people have very alternative and strong opinions so I will only briefly discuss my view. Potentially the largest thing to happen to the world in 2016 is the US election and the election of Donald Trump. I am interested in US politics and did keep up to date with the debates and run up to the election. What fascinated me about this set of elections is that it was picking the lesser of two evils, neither of the candidates were perfect by any means and nobody seemed to think either of them were, so how they both got to the stage that they did is beyond me. Alongside many other people, my view of Trump is highly negative and I’m worried about how he will control and rule the worlds largest superpower, his views couldn’t be further away from mine and how he presents himself and his opinions is nowhere close to how a president should be in my opinion. However on saying this I can’t complain at the fact Donald Trump was elected because I probably would have complained if Clinton was voted in… neither of them were worthy of such a prestigious place. Trump has the power to shift the world in 2017, and that’s potentially the scariest thought for any walk of modern life.


The last point that has touched me this year is the refugee crisis. Although this has been happening for a number of years now, the intensity seemed to rise this year and people finally started to realise and help. Despite this, there is still so much stigma around the refugee crisis, people are in their own little bubble and choose to ignore the many people suffering because they ‘do not want them in our country’ or that they are ‘terrorists in disguise’. People need to remember how they would feel if one day they were forced to leave their house because they would be killed otherwise, yet nobody wants to help you and instead you are stuck with the thousands of other people in poverty feeling exactly the same as you, all fighting for a shred of hope and survival. I must admit that I feel like a hypocrite for talking about this because at the end of the day I am completely helpless to this crisis and I feel like a very small fish in a very large pond. There is nothing one person can do to change it, but equally I feel like I should be doing something to help something I feel strongly about. I think opening up the discussion and breaking the stigma is a good place to start, I hope 2017 a lot of these innocent asylum seekers have a chance to enter a safe place and rebuild their lives.

 

I can honestly imagine 50 years from now, children opening their history exam papers and seeing questions based on this year. Most of the big events this year, especially in the political world, have had two very opposing yet arguable sides to them… It’s easy to see a question like ‘discuss the advantages and disadvantages of Britain leaving the EU in 2016’. One thing for sure is that this year has shaped history more than any other year that I have lived through, I just hope that 2017 has more positive moments to come for the world as a whole.

If anyone has more time and would like to watch a video, I would highly recommend this one. It’s short (2 minute) series of clips produced by Google which sums up everything I have talked about in this post. When I watched it for the first time (I must have watched it a hundred since then) it made me sit back and think about the year and the world, and that’s how this post was inspired. Certainly worth a watch, I actually cried the first time I watched it.

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