New Year’s Eve likes to fool you into feeling cautiously optimistic.
That optimism is, of course, relative to that which we’ve waded through to make it through those twelve months previous. So on the last day of 2016, some might have thought “maybe 2017 wouldn’t be as bad as this one.”
Two millennia from now, the archaeologists and archivists of the hyper-intelligent irradiated cockroach people uncover evidence of 2017, and after copious analysis, come to view it as a seminal year in the coming of their Megaloblatta-Sapiens race.
From the vantage point of their compound eyes, the debates of the day, such as how many North Koreans is it morally acceptable to incinerate, or whether it is wrong to punch a Nazi (a question which reckons a priori that it’s ok to be a Nazi), seem moot or trivial. All must be incinerated, after all, to achieve the supremacy of the mandible.
Their museums trumpet the self-destruction of the human race. Adorning the 2017 gallery walls are their heroes of our age.
The paedophile judge almost elected to a Senate that steadfastly clung to the notion that they were once something more than but the guardians of a phallic ivory hierarchy. The false cowboy’s failure allowed them to delude themselves for another, fatal year, as the floor fell from under their feet.
A cabinet commemorating the orange wigs and boot polish that decorated the year’s Halloween festivities, and yet more pretty little tricksters charming their way out of the ooze – another “change” candidate.
Ah, the Britain exhibit. Sir Nick Clegg. Knighted for services to something – lost to the ages, no doubt. Sir Ringo, the great historian of tank engines, and the days folk could afford rail. Barry Gibb got one too. I suppose in the end times, you get points just for stayin’ alive.
Loyalty is valuable, but our lives are valuable too
There is much chuckling below chitin among patrons as they look back at us steaming headlong into the ravine, distracting ourselves with royal weddings, royal babies, royal Netflix, and royal racism scandals. And how dare they blame us? But for a little escapism, what joy was left us outside of the pharmacy. And lo, the greatest distraction of all, Europe. All eyes looked to the channel trying to work out what it meant to be British, whilst all eyes looked down in Kensington, avoiding the stare of those cremated in their homes because the tower block was deemed too unsightly.
Does it look better now?
Our dear patrons may then scuttle on through to a cinematic rendition of 2017’s finest quotes, courtesy of the rape apologists and baby demagogues, now widely accessible on the vast online archive humanity’s ghost left behind. According to Prof. Blaberoid the Hisser, eminent human historian, these virtual sabre-tongues mimicked the behaviour of their all-powerful leaders, who enjoyed an unprecedented period of rubbing the vomit of their impervious corruption into the faces of those who dared challenge them.
Pol. Pot. Pol. Pot. Pol. Pot. Pol. Pot.
And the wrong words make you listen
Humanity doomed itself in this quagmire, the professor explains on the latest edition of the Gregarious FM podcast. The situation reached critical mass around these figures, who sucked in all challenges, spitting out mercury and lead into the brains of all who listened. Many ducked for cover, their already-fragile minds could not stand another hit. Others chose noble hills upon which to perish, but this was no age for martyrs, and such warriors were dragged to their doom by another barrage of fascist incomprehension (or else stabbed in the back) – they lay in graves unmark’d, with legacies stolen and diluted. With their would-be challengers now scattered and divided, it was only a matter of time before these rat-king leaders turned upon one another.
The intellectuals emerged from their fox-holes, temporarily, to look aloof upon the massacre, pondering only where all the millennial poets went.
As for me, I started the year attending the cremation of a friend, who fell because we could not break his fall, and ended it getting robbed, so you can forgive my cynical tone.
In between, I’ve been looking for something. Strength, defiance, hope. On darker days, it can feel like hopes fade into prayers or delusions. When there’s nothing else out there, that is still a great deal. At the start of the year, bereft, I looked back at the dust-covered words of Obama’s ostracised pastor Jeremiah Wright. The audacity of hope – it sometimes requires a fantastic imagination or a leap of faith. But somehow, I’ve got to stay grounded, or else I lead myself toward further disappointment.
Elsewhere, I just tried to take a moment, and make sense of it all, looking for comparisons in the past to try and understand the ostensible chaos of the present (like with Catalonia and Kosovo), or staring at the sun long enough to gain some blind understanding (“What a time to be alive”).
I’ve got to write it down, but I’m still getting educated
More often though, I’ve been trying to find strength to stand up when feeling particularly helpless or lost, in those who have done it all before. In the old punks who rocked against racism, or John Fitch, who witnessed first-hand a horrific disaster and dedicated his life to see that such things cannot repeat themselves.
There are two things that have kept me going these last few months. The first is through seeking meaning in the death of my friend, or more accurately, meaning in his life. I’ve been holding on tightly to what made him proud of me, and what I admired in him, and trying to keep it alive daily.
I’ve got to write it down, and it won’t be forgotten
The other, I remember well, was walking to work on the 23rd May, seeing all the bees. The Manchester bees. I have always called it the Bin Wasp, because before this I usually came across the winged mascot on the street bins of Manchester streets.
I did not want to leave the house that day, because I was scared. Like everybody else, I felt vulnerable that a place I knew well, a place I walked by every week, had been the scene of such horror. And like many brown folk in England that day, I feared the looks, the reprisal, the armed police, the misplaced suspicion. All I saw that day in my adopted city were bees. Rejecting the lot. That’s the way I chose to look at it, that day. People feeling vulnerable together, finding strength together, in each other. I was reminded of something I read when teaching the Freedom Summer.
“When we sing ‘We are not afraid,’ we mean we are afraid. We sing ‘Ain’t gonna let my fear turn me round,’ because many of you might want to turn around now.”
Strength in the past, strength in the present. Sometimes it’s important not to seek too much solace in history, or fear too greatly a roach-infested future. And I think about the best moments of the year gone by – teaching my seminars, going to the test match with a good friend, bidding friends farewell as they set off for new jobs, new homes, or new adventures. Spending time with the people I love, be it in the cinema, a fancy dress party, or sat on a sofa in Manchester somewhere. Whatever else next year holds, I hope for more instants like this.
For in the event, that this fantastic voyage should turn to erosion, and we never get old, we can always hold close the very best moments in even the worst of years.
(Disclaimer. I actually think cockroaches are neat)