Non-Fiction

Is 2017 As Good As It Gets?

Was 2017 bad? Yes. But was it really that bad? Yes. But was it really, though?

This year, apparently, was terrible. We used up all our ‘worst year ever’ jokes on 2016 but it turns out that if a dumpster is on fire and there’s another dumpster immediately next to it, that dumpster will also catch fire. Except was it bad? Yes. But was it really that bad? Yes. But was it really, though?

Let’s skim some of the major events first because that’s the obvious premise of a year-in-review. An Ariana Grande concert was bombed in Manchester on 22nd May. This attack targeted young people on a night out. Civilians did a good job of not letting the incident drive them to panic. It might be a bit depressing that terrorism has become an accepted part of our culture but it certainly de-fangs the terrorists a little. Unfortunately, ISIS has essentially succeeded in its stated aim of convincing the West to not take in refugees.

In Ireland, Hurricane Ophelia formed on 9th October and eventually dissipated on the 20th, hitting every county in between. Three deaths were directly caused by the hurricane. One woman died because she drove to the shop for a two-litre of milk. So, we have a clear moral: if there’s a hurricane, don’t drive to the shop for a two-litre of milk.

Sinn Fein politician and former IRA man Martin McGuinness passed away on March 21st. In some dusty corner of the internet is a blog I wrote at age 16, just after the results of the 2011 Irish presidential election, where I called McGuinness “a supervillain in a world without heroes.” I still don’t think I’d vote for him as I’ve heard too many stories about people who have lost loved ones because of his actions. But, I’ve grown up and become a bit kinder to him, especially considering his passing.

Even now, I consider him to have blood on his hands. But when he changed his mind and chose to talk rather than continue the violence, he led the move towards peace. I would have grown up in a very different version of Ireland if not for him. McGuinness went back on a lot of what he believed so that lives could be saved.

Hundreds of thousands of people took to Dublin’s streets for the latest, and hopefully last, March for Choice. The Abortion Rights Campaign (ARC) organised the march as part of their long-running campaign to pressure the government to repeal the Eighth Amendment and pass legislation that allows for free, safe, and legal abortion.

If you like people arguing about abortion, then you’ll have had a whale of a time while Katie Ascough was getting impeached. Ascough used to be the President of the University College Dublin Students’ Union (UCDSU). Then, she spent €8,000 reprinting handbooks to remove information on abortion.

“But Mark Laherty, that information is illegal!” you might say. Well, illegal under a law that has never been enforced in the history of the state, yes. Plus, printed in a handbook which prints lots of illegal information which she decided to allow in the reprint. There’s a passage on how to remove a clamp from a car. That is extremely illegal, much more illegal than anything else going on here.

‘#MeToo’ wasn’t exactly a campaign or a movement although it did have campaigns and movements supporting it. Technically, it was just a hashtag. But, it was the hashtag that saw powerful men in the film history held accountable for years of open-secret sexual abuse. The creeps who have faced consequences include Kevin Spacey, Harvey Weinstein, and Louis CK. It doesn’t include James Franco or Johnny Depp because we found out about those guys a few years ago so most people don’t care quite as much. Also, I hear Trump is still a work in progress.

A baby hippopotamus named Gloria was born. I was flicking through some other year-in-review things to get a feel for what I should and shouldn’t cover and this dumb hippo kept getting mentioned. She seems nice, I suppose, but she also seems about as cute as any other baby hippo. Presumably, there was some BuzzFeed article that went viral and I just didn’t check Facebook that day.

2017 will probably be the second-to-last year that any human ever gets polio. There have only been 16 new cases of wild poliovirus down from 37 in 2016. 30 years ago, there were over a hundred thousand cases of polio every year. This sort of thing is under-reported because it’s a slow process rather than an event, which is fair enough.

In a similar vein, the percentage of people living in absolute poverty is the lowest it’s ever been. The percentage of kids in school is the highest it’s ever been, as is the percentage of adults who can read. In many ways, 2017 is the best year in all human history.

In other ways, it sucks. Donald Trump has been the US President and that’s been pure chaos. The homelessness crisis in Ireland is still urgent no matter how Varadkar tries to downplay it. Restrictive abortion laws still see a minimum of ten women a day on planes to England.

Other, under-reported problems include a huge increase in death by drug overdose in the US due to opiate abuse. South Sudan is suffering a famine. Ethnic cleansing in Myanmar has killed many people and forced hundreds of thousands more from their homes.

So, in many ways, it has been terrible. But, it can still also be said to be the best year in all human history. In conclusion, everything has always been terrible and this is as good as it gets.

Also, fidget spinners happened this year and I maintain that they are good. They are simple and pure and fun. Anyone who disagrees with this can fight me in a Tesco car park.

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