It’s behind you! 2016 was just a panto villain.

Ding dong, 2016 is dead. We can all breathe a collective sigh of relief. Everything will be ok now that awful year is over. 2017 should be less tragic, shouldn’t it? We must be almost running out of beloved celebrities to die prematurely.

I’ll admit: I’ve been on the bandwagon; it’s been a year that’s seen me pretty much stop writing. Whether you see that as one of the things to celebrate about 2016 or not depends on your perspective and tolerance for rambling diatribes interspersed with bad puns and balls jokes, I guess. There came a point last year where Thalia got caught in a weltschmerz riptide and carried away; it’s hard to crack wise about the state of the world when real life feels more like black comedy than anything you can conjure. But I’m back. Yay.

The depiction of last year as a celebrity-hunting bogeyman is probably quite apt. The good riddances bid on social and news media, though, have focused on lost luvvies and been light on the politics, bar some very vague references to war. It’s nice to have a clear cut pantomime villain to hiss and throw peanuts at. Like any panto baddie, we’re not really booing what we think we are. The villain in any drama is a projection of our own deadly sins; our wrath, lust and sloth as a cartoon caricature.

To shout “Begone!” at the year past because of lost celebs is to rail against simple probability. Some years will take a heavier toll than others; those we treasure will walk into the light and Rupert Murdoch will remain until the expiry of his Mephistophelean contract. Upsetting but inevitable. Simple chance, the random cosmos isn’t the bad guy.

As sad as it was to see such giants of the entertainment world as Ronnie Corbett[1] pass on, that’s not the reason that 2016 really sucked.

We were.

Choosing isolation over union. Choosing fear and selfishness over compassion. Choosing laziness over making a stand.

Britain decided to leave Europe. After all of the fuss, the lies, the accusations and the political point scoring, we chose to go backwards. Not to reform and try to improve a union whilst still seeking cooperation. We chose to go back and hide on our rainy island.  Lots of us were against it but we were too arrogant, too proud. We failed to listen to the other side, failed to understand and to engage.

The US election; the ongoing war in Syria; political posturing; post-truth news and politics; the rise in hate speech; the alt-right: I know from what I’ve read that I’m not alone in thinking that the world has become an uglier place over the last twelve months. But so many of us are complicit in all of these events. Each time we’ve convinced ourselves that writing to our MP doesn’t make a difference (it does if we all do it); each time we’ve voted mainstream because we’ve let mainstream media convince us that they’re the only credible alternative; each time we’ve let ourselves believe that a Facebook post counts as doing our bit – we’ve contributed.

It takes twenty minutes to write a well-researched email to your MP. Ten minutes to write a letter for Amnesty. Five minutes to add your name to a petition. You can find communities like helpfulpeeps  and perform a small act of kindness to make your community a better place. It takes a couple of seconds to think whether joining in with a joke in the office is making the world a better place or helping other people to think that casual prejudice is OK. No time and no money to not buy something from a corporation with questionable ethics.

2017 can be an amazing year. World-changing. It could be the year when our political leaders are forced to prize people over profit; when our companies are forced to take responsibility for what they do to the planet; when we make an effort to truly love our neighbours.

It would be nice to think that this time next year, a few beloved singers passing on is all that we have to feel bad about.

[1] Note for non UK readers: one of the Two Ronnies; a much loved comedian of remarkably diminutive stature.

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