Most things don’t happen in a vacuum. By that I mean that almost nothing is just an isolated, one-off incident. Most world events are interconnected in some way or can be grouped with other events to represent a bigger movement or phenomenon.
With that said, when we look back over a period of time, like at the end of a year for example, usually we can see some patterns spring up. A lot of times one major event can be representative of a broader movement that includes a bunch of other small things or it can be one of many similar events that represents a wider phenomena that is becoming more mainstream or common.
This past year really is no different. Many of the events of the last year, when viewed as part of an entire year and even the rest of the decade, show you just how interconnected everything really is and even how cyclical or repetitive history can be.
With the year and the decade having just come to a close, I wanted to look back at some of the major events of the last year and what I hope we can learn from these events going forward in the next year and the next decade. These events are all representative of broader themes or movements, some seemingly going in the right direction, others not so much.
Just at the end of this year, there was a very mixed conclusion to a long-running legal battle that many people might not have even heard about. Infamous movie producer and alleged sexual abuser Harvey Weinstein reached a $25 million settlement with over 30 actresses and former employees who accused him of sexual misconduct over the last two years, which gave rise to the #MeToo Movement.
While on its face that sounds like a win, as all the women involved will get a piece of the pay out, the big issue is in the way it’s being handled. Specifically, the money would not be coming from Weinstein himself, but from the insurance company for the Weinstein Company, his movie production company. Also, the settlement would not require him to apologize or admit any wrongdoing in the case, while ending any and all lawsuits brought against him and the Weinstein Company.
While Weinstein is set to appear in court in the near future for some criminal charges that were levied against him, this settlement is troubling to me. It does not feel like justice was properly served in these many cases and so I hope at the very least this will lead to more substantive justice in future cases.
Back in October, there was a video going around of Ellen Degeneres at an NFL game with former Republican President George W. Bush. While there was initial outrage on social media over seeing them together, soon after Degeneres was able to take control of the media narrative and seemingly rehabilitated Bush’s reputation and monstrous political record over night.
Her response to the whole situation was based largely on the idea that we have to bridge political divides and that we can and should have friends with different political views than us. Let me make this perfectly clear, I absolutely agree with that, I have many friends and even close relationships with family members who I have radically different political beliefs than. The problem with this case is that George Bush was at one point not too long ago the most powerful man in the world, the President of the United States. We aren’t just talking about being nice to your slightly offensive relative or your conservative friend from your hometown. Bush had more power than anybody else in the world for eight years and boy did he use it.
As President, George Bush started both the war in Iraq and in Afghanistan, costing the US $4 trillion and killing over 500,000 people, most of which were innocent civilians, in the process. He also passed extensive tax cuts and deregulation of Wall Street that led to the Great Recession in 2008, the last year of Bush’s presidency. During that last year, the US was losing over 500,000 jobs a month! Lastly and perhaps most importantly for Ellen, during his 2004 re-election campaign, Bush called for the creation of an amendment to the constitution that would ban any and all same sex marriage in the US indefinitely, something Degeneres seems to have conveniently moved passed.
Before President Trump, Bush was seen as one of the most reckless and horrific Presidents in American history (and rightfully so). While yes, we should be friends with and debate those we disagree with, when you’re talking about the President, someone who acted on those beliefs, endangering lives and killing innocent people in the process, it’s a whole different story. So I hope this serves as a lesson, especially when it comes to someone like Trump when he leaves office this decade, to never forget someone’s political record.
The Climate Crisis
A major phenomena from this past decade that has been growing in intensity and severity is the climate crisis. We saw the increasing regularity and power of hurricanes, like Hurricane Dorian that was the strongest to hit land since the 1930’s and Hurricane Maria that ravaged Puerto Rico a few years ago. We also saw an increasing number of forest fires, like the ones we have seen in California, British Columbia, Alberta and currently in Australia, which have cost countless human lives as well as the lives of nearly 500 million animals. These examples and so many more all point to a future that will be increasingly volatile and threatening to all life on earth.
While it certainly looks dark at this point, something that gave me a lot of hope in the last year or so has been the activism of folks like Autumn Peltier and Greta Thunberg, as well as the countless climate strikes that have included millions all across the world. As long as there is enough time for the younger generation to take the reigns of power, it does seem like there is some light at the end of the tunnel when it comes to the climate crisis, however dim the situation might seem.
War and Peace
The 2010’s were a very tense time on the world stage. With the influence of the United States seemingly dwindling, such as in the case of the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014, while the power of rogue actors like Russia, as well as China, India and others continues to grow, international tensions have seemingly been boiling throughout most of the decade. All of that was made far worse with the election of Donald Trump in 2016, a shoot from the hip, hot headed simpleton with no political, government or diplomatic experience to speak of. So naturally, he hasn’t been a great fit for the job. Whether it’s his half baked ‘peace talks’ with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, his trade war with countries like Canada and China or his decision to pull out of the Iran Nuclear Deal, a situation that has recently gotten even worse after the US assassinated a top Iranian military commander, Qasem Soleimani, the US has now become an instigator of international instability, something that puts us all at risk.
Recent protests against starting a war with Iran, something that would likely bring in both of their biggest allies, namely China and Russia, which has been hauntingly referred to online as “World War 3,” leaves me with some hope, though I think only a major regime change in the next US election will have any major impact on de escalating tensions, which desperately needs to happen.
I know this list isn’t exactly the most uplifting, but I do really believe that this is where we are going into the 2020’s. We are facing a ton of major challenges not just in Canada but around the world, which means that the decisions made in the next few years are likely going to have a major impact on how this decade turns out. So let’s do what we can to work collectively to push forward the change we want to see in the world. We should also hope that cooler heads prevail amongst the most powerful decision makers, because not to sound dramatic, but the world kind of depends on it.