Another year is drawing to a close and once again the human race has showcased its ability to overcome magnificent obstacles, defy tremendous odds and succeed in amazing ways. At the same time it has displayed its perennial stupidity, ignorance of basic principles and outright destructive force, upon its fellow man and the planet it inhabits.
2016 is a year that many will be happy to consign to the history books, but was it really so bad..? From terrorism to zika virus, sporting fairytales, celebrity deaths and internet crazes let’s take a look back at the past 12 months and laugh, cry, despair and be amazed.
Without a doubt politics provided the world with the biggest stories of the year. Donald Trump will soon be inaugurated as the President of the USA and the world continues to vomit in their mouths every time they think about it. Second only to Trump in the shock factor was Brexit, in which old angry white English folk voted to leave the European Union. Aah, democracy in action.
Down Under, democracy was in action for 2 painfully long months, in a campaign which saw the governing Coalition’s majority eroded, along with the PM’s authority. Elsewhere, the Philippines elected Rodrigo Duterte, a man who has boasted about killing alleged drug dealers and has unleashed a wave of violence in Manila; former Cuban President Fidel Castro passed away at age 90 leaving a legacy for generations to debate; the Panama Papers shed a new light on corruption and resulted in the downfall of Iceland’s Prime Minister; while the Syrian war, Rohingya persecution in Myanmar, Nauru and PNG detention centres and deterioration of Yemen all continue unabated.
However, there were some small victories in 2016. The Yang to Trump / Brexit / Assad and European terrorism’s Yin was the real prospect of peace in Colombia, after half a century of conflict; in Nigeria the recovery of some Chibok schoolgirls and other Boko Haram kidnap victims; the convictions of former Chadian dictator Hissene Habre and Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic for crimes against humanity; and finally the UN resolution 2334, ordering Israel to cease building settlements on Palestinian land.
2016 will undoubtedly be remembered as the year of fairytales. In the English Premier League, dominated for so long by so few, Leicester came from nowhere to claim their first championship in 132 years, while Portugal celebrated their first international trophy when they became European Champions. In the US, Chicago baseball fans celebrated the end of another century long drought when their Cubs defeated the Cleveland Indians in the best of 7 series. Meanwhile, in Australia football fans were treated to a double drought breaking weekend, when the Western Bulldogs ended 62 years of heartbreak by taking out the AFL title and 24 hours later, the Cronulla Sharks claimed their first NRL premiership, 49 years after forming. Finally, the Cleveland Cavaliers basketball team, headed by hometown hero LeBron James, won their first championship in 46 years.
At the Rio Olympics Usain Bolt etched his place in sporting history, becoming the first man to win the 100m, 200m and 4 x 100m titles at 3 consecutive Olympic Games. He shared the Brasilian limelight with American swimmer Michael Phelps who claimed his 28th gold medal, the Fijian Rugby 7’s team who won their nations first ever Olympic Medal, Simone Biles who departed Rio with 4 gold and 1 bronze and the Brasilian football team who exorcised some demons by defeating Germany in the gold medal match.
In a year filled with so many sporting highlights, it was the death of Muhammad Ali which cast a long shadow over not only the sporting world, but the entire globe. A man who became much more than a sports star – a civil rights leader, Muslim, husband, father and role model to millions across the planet.
Despite not winning the Presidency, Hillary Clinton broke one more glass ceiling, when she became the first ever female candidate for a major American political party. In the UK Theresa May was announced as their second female PM following the resignation of David Cameron and in Australia Prof. Gillian Triggs continued to present herself as the ultimate professional, despite another year of bullying and harassment from largely male politicians and journalists.
Women’s rights saw victories and setbacks this year. In Pakistan social media celebrity Qandeel Baloch was murdered by her brother in yet another so called ‘honour killing,’ in neighbouring India ‘Priya Shakti’ was launched, a new comic strip super heroine who is a rape survivor and in West Africa more than 300 communities across Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mali and Mauritania came together to abandon FGM.
One of the women of the year was ‘Emily Doe,’ whose sexual assault case saw her abuser Brock Turner briefly become the most hated man in the world (and for good reason), cricketer Chris Gayle talked himself out of a lucrative contract after hitting on television presenter Mel McLaughlin in an awkward live interview and things got really weird when Bono, U2 frontman (yes, MAN) was awarded (and went on to accept) Glamour Magazine’s ‘Woman of the Year’ and sadly, despite the hype, the all-female Ghostbusters reboot really did suck.
Science & the Environment
One hundred years in the making, Einstein’s theory of gravitational waves was confirmed with a 20 millisecond long ripple from two black holes colliding. The discovery could see the team awarded a Nobel Prize. Also in outer space, scientists believe they may have discovered a ninth planet in the solar system and after combining their powers of imagination, named the discovery ‘Planet Nine.’
Robot life moved a step closer in 2016, when American paralysis patient Nathan Copeland had a robot arm wired to his brain, which he could move by thought and experience a sense of touch. Also, a Jordanian boy was created by mitochondrial replacement therapy, the combination of DNA from 3 people (his parents and a donor) to prevent him inheriting a genetic disease.
In other good news the Paris climate agreement was an important step to tackle dangerous climate change and is the first legally binding international agreement. The world also welcomed the news that Giant Pandas were removed from the endangered list, US carbon emissions dropped to their lowest levels since 1991, Portugal ran for four days on entirely renewable energy and the first zero-fuel aeroplane flew around the world powered only by solar.
Despite famine and hunger devastating Yemen, Syria, Central African Republic and South Sudan it was the decision to Arnott’s to change the flavour of BBQ Shapes that outraged the world in 2016. Following an online backlash the company reassured a desperate public that their beloved Shapes would revert to their original flavour.
International outrage also ensued when it was discovered a Melbourne café was serving ‘deconstructed coffee,’ – a glass of milk, water and coffee in 3 separate beakers. Elsewhere in the hipster universe, smashed avocado was blamed for the millennial generation being unable to afford a house deposit, skateboards replaced cutting boards (which replaced plates, which seemed to work well enough!) and popcorn is now available in kale flavour.
Cited by many as one of the reasons 2016 is so despised was the loss of so many film and music legends. David Bowie, Prince and Gene Wilder head a list which also includes George Michael, Carrie Fisher, Glenn Frey (The Eagles), Leonard Cohen, Alan Rickman, Sharon Jones, Andrew Sachs, Rick Parfitt (Status Quo), Zsa Zsa Gabor, Maurice White (Earth, Wind & Fire) and George Martin (aka the Fifth Beatle).
Despite dying, Bowie still managed to release one of the highest selling albums of the year in Blackstar and shared the charts with many of the usual suspects including Metallica (Hardwired… to Self Destruct), Beyonce (Lemonade), Justin Bieber (Purpose), Rihanna (Anti), Drake (Views) and Adele (25), while aging rocker Bob Dylan was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature, becoming the first pop musician to receive the honour.
Finally, when AC/DC frontman Brian Johnson announced his retirement due to hearing loss, fans and critics largely agreed that the time was right for the legendary group to end, while still close to the top of their game. Sadly, like fellow Aussie rockers INXS, AC/DC disagreed and eventually confirmed industry rumours that Axl Rose would front the band, hmm.
The internet phenomenon of the year was undoubtedly Pokemon Go. The app, which was downloaded more times than Tinder, saw countless people lose their mind chasing imaginary creatures through the real world. The obsession resulted in users abandoning their children to catch a Pikachu, walking off cliffs while chasing a Squirtle or being mugged in alleyways searching for a Venusaur.
After the Pokemon craze subsided Pineapple Pen and Creepy Clowns we’re in vogue, thankfully both were shortlived.
Finally, conservative Australian politician and sometime anti-Muslim nutcase George Christensen became the latest person to ‘break the internet,’ when this photo appeared (with no apparent irony) under the headline ‘Why it’s time to take George Christensen seriously.’
Hey you, think before you act in 2017!
Gold medal: The Australian 60 Minutes crew who were arrested in Lebanon following a failed ‘child recovery operation’ aka kidnapping, resulting in reporter Tara Brown and mother Sally Faulnker arrested and zero children recovered.
Silver: The Australian ‘Budgie 9’ who stripped down to their ‘budgie smugglers’ at the Malaysian Grand Priz and were subsequently detained, fined and deported.
Bronze: American swimmer Ryan Lochte who vandalised a gas station during the Rio Olympics and invented a story about being mugged to cover his behaviour. A 10 month ban was handed down upon his return to the US.
Thank you to everyone for reading, sharing and commenting in 2016, it’s been a great ride and we’ll see you in 2017!