What can be said about 2017? While an improvement from its predecessor, it was often one of underhanded, back-room dealings at the top that benefited a few people as opposed to the many. Of course, it all started with Donald Trump’s inauguration in January, which contrary to what he would have you believe, wasn’t so massive in terms of crowd size. Running his presidency like a full-on businessman, staff including strategist Steve Bannon and press secretary Sean Spicer would leave the White House over the course of the year.
Inflated egos in both North Korea and North America rippled outwards throughout 2017; Kim Jong-Un continued to test rockets, including some that could reach the western coast, making its neighbours understandably nervous and leaving others to wonder whether conflict was on the horizon. Despite a trading of childish insults back and forth between the two leaders, Trump and Jong-Un didn’t end up trading their words for missiles. In the US, emboldened by the President seemingly turning a blind eye to their actions, neo-Nazi groups began to come out of their closets, violently clashing with groups like Antifa in the process. It came to a head in Charlottesville in August where a Unite the Right rally saw one person die and thirty-nine others injured. So long as Trump refuses to condemn the return of these vile far-right individuals, their abuse will only continue.
The #MeToo Campaign exploded across Hollywood and many big names from Harvey Weinstein to Kevin Spacey were implicated in sexual assault. The sheer size of the movement which quickly spread across twitter and other social media networks drew plenty of attention to how big the problem of harassment and sexual abuse is worldwide. In fact, the year itself was a strong one for women; Saudi Arabia moved to allow women to drive for the first time in its history, and women in the United States formed the biggest march in US history to take on the President and his woman-abusing ways. This was followed up by a march for science in which hundreds of professionals moved to condemn Trump’s denial of science and proven facts. Personally, I feel the viral picture above of Saffiyah Khan standing up to the racist English Defence League tells the story of women in 2017 better than I can; nearly 100 years after they were first given the right to vote, women are making their voices heard on higher, more widespread levels and it’s easily the most positive story of the year.
Despite terror attacks around the world, the worst of which being in the Middle East, ISIS lost a vast amount of territory in 2017 as military offensives worked to push them back. As far as physical presence goes, it’s hard to see the group lasting much longer, but their ideology may endure longer yet, particularly through their indoctrination methods. Despite this however, bombs continue to fall on the Middle East, with America making use of a MOAB for the first time; the praising of the use of weapons by the US media certainly didn’t help here. The impact of dropping so many bombs on the regions needs to be considered, particularly with regards to creating more terrorists.
Sports and politics collided in the US as Colin Kaepernick and other NFL players triggered a wave of peaceful protests against police brutality and the treatment of minorities throughout the country; it was a brave yet simple act that would continue throughout the year as others spoke out against their treatment while also exposing the monopolistic and neglectful behavior of the NFL itself. Of course, Trump and his rabid supporters moved to attack and abuse the players, brainwashed by nationalism into believing that they were disrespecting flag and country. What they seemed to forget through all this is the right to protest that lies in the first amendment.
In spite of successful surges in 2016, the EU managed to stand strong for the time being as France and the Netherlands defeated far-right nationalism in their respective elections. Geert Wilders was beaten by Mark Rutters who will maintain his seat for another five years. In France, the French Front Leader Marine Le Pen, a big fan of Donald Trump, lost out to Emmanuel Macron, who has pledged to bring several ambitious reforms and possibly reach higher in the leadership of Europe. On the other hand, the Catalan Independence vote triggered further instability within Spain; both the EU and the United Nations chose not to recognise the vote as legitimate. Outside of these events however, 2017 was also notable for the first millennial coming to power; Sebastian Kurz, 31 is leaning to the right side of the political spectrum with one of his policies dictating that refugees who come to Austria will not receive benefits until they have lived in the country for five years. Future leaders who come to power in the future should be scrutinised and held to account.
Over in the UK, things really haven’t moved forward since last year’s debacle; Theresa May’s early UK election aiming to “crush the saboteurs” turned into a mess as voters were swayed to Jeremy Corbyn, forcing the originally unelected PM to bribe Ireland’s DUP 1.5 billion pounds to cling on to power. Further scandals would continue infest the Conservative party throughout the year. First development secretary Priti Patel left the cabinet for her plans to secretly send funds to the Israeli army, then deputy Prime Minister Damien Green crashed out after pornography was found on his computer, and Boris Johnson bungled a UK prisoner release in Iran. Bafflingly enough, David Davies and Jeremy Hunt are still in their jobs, despite their own negligence regarding Brexit and the NHS. The current UK government seems weaker than ever and some are looking at the prospect of yet another vote next year, one which the Labour party could take and come to power. Have they done anything positive this year? They did at least move to tackle the endless plastics flooding our oceans in the Budget this year, but they could have done so much more.
Around halfway through the year a fire erupted at Grenfell Tower in North Kensington, London killing 71 people, injuring 74 and depriving 223 of a home. The disaster exposed incompetency in public safety on part of the Labour ran council, poor effort in financial relief from the current government and the ever-widening gap and subsequent neglect between the UK’s rich and poor. Currently the inquiry is ongoing, and details can be found online; who is to blame for this comes down to several factors; there were no sufficient sprinkler systems in place, nor was there enough funding given to make the building safer. I remember driving near the site and seeing its burnt remains jutting out among the other towers; it’s practically a monument to the horrendous and shameful way the poor have been treated in the UK and even now, many of those who did escape the fire still haven’t received their full compensation. Making sure it never happens again is only a starting point, the rift between rich and poor must also be tackled.
Moving to the highest level of governance, the backwards Brexit stupidity continued in the UK as gross nationalism and poor preparation took priority over careful thought and fair dealing. Without a single benefit to its name, the negotiations hobbled on and eventually news broke out that chief negotiator David Davies hadn’t carried out a single study into the economic impact of Brexit over the year the con took place. His laziness spoke volumes of the true attitudes towards Brexit; one where the abusive rich will be high and dry as they impose the oncoming economic chaos onto everyone in the lower classes. The madness only got worse with the announcement of blue passports; a ridiculous campaign in The Sun brought about the decision which could cost the taxpayer five hundred million pounds. Staying true to last year’s explosion of fake news and denial, an aide of Theresa May quickly denounced this figure; what’s more damning about the move is how it panders to the bigoted individuals in the UK while completely ignoring other problems like homelessness, healthcare and education. Clearly the magic money tree is well at work here…
On the humanitarian front, the worst crises came through Yemen and the Rohingya Genocide. After three years of endless attacks, famine and suffering have swept through Yemen and the sales of the arms trade have only made it worse. Further down the line, a genocide swept through Myanmar as ethnic cleansing masquerading as a crackdown on insurgency took hold, causing half a million Rohingya refugees to flee to Bangladesh. While Myanmar’s leader, Aung San Suu Kyi’s Nobel peace prize was not revoked, her downfall in the eyes of the international community was cemented with her complicity and failure to stop the suffering and treat the Rohingya people with dignity. On the other side of the coin Robert Mugabe was ousted in Zimbabwe with a military coup, ending a near four-decade period of economic failure through hyper-inflation. Many locals celebrated the move, praying for more prosperous times for their country. On the nature front, Costa Rica, Honduras and Nicaragua were plunged into chaos when Storm Nate struck, but this also caused an outpouring of support with some Americans heading there on their accord to help those stuck without electricity.
Following on from last year’s Panama Papers, the Paradise papers shed further light on the abuse and hoarding of unequal wealth around the world. In fact, 2017 was also a big year for the top 500 richest people as they saw their wealth increase by a gigantic one trillion dollars at the expense of billions beneath them who lost out on stagnating wages, increasing homelessness and privatisation of public services as they continue to gain more power and influence over others. The same holds true for privatisation of services that belong in public hands; Virgin, through a rather callous lawsuit against the UK’s NHS, has acquired one billion pounds worth of healthcare contacts in this year alone.
In his continuing mission to take America backwards, President Trump received his first major victories; he withdrew America from the Paris Climate Accord (The only nation on Earth to do so), scraped through a watered-down travel ban from the Middle East region and towards the end of the year he pushed through a tax cut that will make the rich even richer. He went on to cop his biggest controversy for recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Bullying and emergency voting ensued at the UN as the US demanded the names of those who voted against their decision and vetoed any action against them. The reckless decision created an explosion of violence between Palestine and Israel. But Trump also received his first major defeat, losing Alabama to Democrat Doug Jones, something which could spell further difficulties in the mid-term elections next year.
To close out the year, another shock hit the United States as the net neutrality repeal was passed, ready to segregate internet users into paid groups. From there, Ajit Pai, the head of the Federal Communications Commission pranced about both on and off the internet, happy that he and his friends in corporate telecasters were about to get a lot richer by charging citizens for access to specific sites. This brings difficulties in a few ways; not only are consumers being ripped off for what should be an inclusive service, but the flow of information can also be manipulated. If any information and websites holding governments and organisations to account could be locked behind a paywall, then the public would be constantly misinformed through a form of corporate intrusion to ensure their continued dominance.
2017 was ultimately a year of people at the top pressing down on those beneath them; with the negative results of 2016 still in the mind, this isn’t surprising and the ways the elite took advantage of last year’s events manifested themselves in the twelve months that followed. There was pushback in some areas but there is still work to be done. One thing I saw felt quite indicative; on the way back through Brussels Airport earlier this year I saw the security barrier manned entirely by G4S employees, followed up by a billboard for Exxon Mobil, a company who has been given the go-ahead to drastically up their plastic production; considering the talk of giving G4S plans to arrest in the UK and Rex Tillerson’s questionable views on climate change, this is perhaps an indication of the power corporations and those at the top may soon hold. We should watch this carefully in the year to come.
(Images used for the purposes of review and criticism under fair use)