Cut 2016 Some Slack, Please


Cut 2016 Some Slack, Please

Illustration: Shivali Devalkar

In a year of intensely divisive political campaigns and opinions, there’s only one thing that seems to have united people across the world. As the year draws to a close, a ringing chorus has risen from several quarters – at least in parts where keyboards and internet connections are easy to come by – where an increasing number of people seem to be demanding the end of 2016. Enough, they say, we’ve had it.

Over the last week, after George Michael’s death, 2016 was declared by several people on Facebook and Twitter to be “ugh, the worst”. Then Carrie Fisher died two days ago, and sealed the deal for the undecided few. It was thus officially decided that 2016 needs to go away, like, right now.

At the risk of sounding like an outlier and getting lynched by the doomsdayers bearing #End2016 placards, I quite enjoyed 2016. For starters, I am alive, in relative comfort, and feel like I have prospects. Most of all, I am aware that things could have been way, way worse.

Time travel with me a hundred years ago to 1916, where World War I is in the process of killing 17 million people. Are you more comfortable here? No? Let’s go further back to 1348 for a Mediterranean cruise. Are you enjoying the view? Good, because in six minutes, your village will either be pillaged by a foreign invader or you’ll catch the bubonic plague. If that doesn’t appeal to you maybe we should go further back 65.5 million years ago. Are you admiring the pretty lights in the sky as you munch on leaves in the company of your Brontosaurus bros? Yeah, those are the meteoroids about to wipe y’all out. Suddenly, 2016 doesn’t seem so bad anymore, eh?

Still you’ll notice that the average internet millennial doesn’t stop whingeing. Maybe the cab that they booked off an app wasn’t off by five minutes, so they send out a nasty tweet to Uber. This is us, the same people who’d complain on FB if they happened to have been hugged by someone wearing cheap deodorant or bemoaning the fact that everyone has a beard now. It’s almost as if our lives have become so comfortable, so devoid of any serious troubles (when was the last time you had to kill and skin your own chicken) that there’s nothing left but to mourn the death of a celebrity we saw in a movie once.

Get a grip folks, and slowly walk away from the hyperbole. I doubt 2016 was any worse than 2015, 2014, or 2013.

This isn’t to say that 2016 wasn’t terrible in a lot of ways. Of course there was a steady stream of depressing news from Kashmir or Syria. But there’s no need to blame the calendar; these are crises that have been in the making for decades. Those with a more negative outlook went on to argue that 2016 marked the beginning of World War III because of all the “shit going on in the Middle-East”. But, no, this is not the start of a world war. The same way it wasn’t in 2015 or 2014.

To get an indication of how terrible people think this year has been, think of all the most depressing things you’ve seen your friends say on social media. Turns out an alarming number of twentysomethings are now having existential crises over an orange idiot being elected president of a country halfway across the world. Or because a polar bear named Pizza was kept in a mall in China, and that gave them seriously bad vibes. Well, none of these things are unique to 2016. It’s all happened before in some way or another.

The difference is that now we are constantly bombarded on social media with opinion shrouded in a clickbait headline. Ironically, access to so much information ought to arm us and help us form better opinions. We choose, instead, to get sucked into the gloom, share a nihilist meme, and repeat like sheep: “This was such a shitty year.” When some poor sod tries to change our opinion with a link from The Better India about reducing child mortality rates, our reaction is to educate him or her about the number of children who have died in 2016, through some trademark whataboutery.

Get a grip folks, and slowly walk away from the hyperbole. I doubt 2016 was any worse than 2015, 2014, or 2013. If I recall correctly, 2002 was a pretty bad year for India. So was 1984. As were the Emergency years. When India gained independence in 1947, we had an average life expectancy rate of just 32. Now it’s 66… This can go on for a while.

At the risk of sounding like an idealist at a time when negativity is clearly the flavour of the season, I would argue that 2016 was actually one of the better years to be alive. Solar energy is now officially cheaper than fossil fuels. Indian women are officially better than men at the Olympics. The world’s tiger population is up 22 per cent. Someone’s invented a drone that can deliver pizza to your house – a drone you can order with a plastic card off the Amazon app.

Let’s face it, 2016 might have been a shitty year, but there’s no way it was the worst. Besides, 2017 is just around the corner. Let’s start picking on the new guy.