THE YEAR THAT WAS: 2016
A lot has happened in 2016.
Politically, it was a busy year. The story of all stories was, of course, the election of Donald Trump as the President of the United States. This was the first time that a complete outsider – with no political connections or experience – made it to the top seat. This came as a culmination of anti-establishment sentiment that has been brewing across the Western world for most of the year.
This was the year of the rise of the silent voter, the blue-collar worker who does not make his opinions heard on social media but is nevertheless very invested in the direction of the country in which he lives. He first rose and made his vote heard in the Brexit issue, where Britain famously voted to leave the European Union, and then, overwhelmingly, when he voted out the establishment figures and ushered in a new leader in Trump.
The other big political story of the year has been the demonetisation surprise in India. Narendra Modi, the Prime Minister of the country, sprang a massive shock on November 8 when he outlawed with immediate effect all five hundred and thousand rupee notes in circulation. Ostensibly, this is a move designed to curtail activities of black money hoarders, but in actual practice, many honest middle class and poor citizens are finding themselves in trouble due to the cash crunch.
Regardless, this year is likely to go down in Indian history as the year in which the country took its first firm stand against black money and corruption, two malaises that have seeped in so deep as to become part of culture.
So if we’re to find a common thread that runs through the events of the world in 2016, it is the rise of the little guy at the expense of the big guys. Now this is still theory – for all we know, Brexit, Trump and Modi may all turn around, and the big fish may yet wriggle out of grasp – but at least democracy has made its value known, and the small people with no influence are beginning to break out and speak in terms of votes. For the first time in many years, the world is witnessing a massive sentiment of anti-establishment and anti-globalist policies.
The age of globalisation and social media, the age of a world with no borders, is crumbling a little bit. People are overwhelmingly standing in support of nationalist policies over globalist ones, and it might just be that 2016 will be known in the future as the year in which the nations of the world erected walls around themselves. The dawn of a new age of selfishness might just be around the corner.
What it means is still hard to say, but the pendulum is swinging back ‘right’, toward conservatism, toward nation-states over open borders, and that might mean more distrust between nations, and harder negotiations where all countries adopt a ‘me first’ policy. It will be interesting to watch, for sure.
On that sombre note, goodbye to 2016, and let’s welcome 2017 with hope.