2018 Will Be The End of Peace, And That Might Be A Good Thing
At the end of 2016 people were reeling, but hoping things wouldn’t get too bad. Optimistic takes abounded. Trumpshock aside, the main despairing sentiment on social media was grief over how many beloved artists and celebrities had died- David Bowie, Leonard Cohen and Prince among the most missed. I wrote an article for the Forward in which I argued that given the aging demographic of celebrities 2017 would surely be worse.
I was wrong.
In 2017 we lost some greats- Tom Petty, Chris Cornell, Greg Allman, Gord Downie, Mary Tyler Moore among them, but it was not as much of a year of intense mourning in the arts as 2016 had been.
In much more fearsome and horrible ways, however, as we all know, 2017 was much worse than 2016, and on a global scale.
The Trump administration, though halted or slowed down at some key points by the courts and civil rights groups, moved the program of its dark empire forward, and relentlessly. Undocumented immigrants were terrorized and families were broken apart. Labour rights were degraded and the rights of the LGBQT Community stolen. Pristine nature reserves were made open to private rapine, safety regulations to protect the earth and vulnerable creatures and people were undone, and indigenous peoples disrespected in both word and practice. The US pulled out of the Paris Accord with little international consequences, and emissions certain to cause catastrophic climate change in the near and far future reached an all-time high.
In Canada, Trudeau combined progressive rhetoric with neoliberal capitalist business as usual. Promises to Indigenous peoples in Canada were broken, fossil fuel projects went ahead, promises of electoral reform were abandoned, military expenditure was increased and a 14 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia made by the previous government was honoured. In BC where I live there were glints of hope as the newly elected NDP moved to implement more socially conscious economic and infrastructural reforms, but proved still to not be radical enough, deciding to continue with a massive hydro-electric project, Site C, which has been criticized by the UN for violating Indigenous rights and shown by a University of British Columbia report to be a long term economic failure to boot.
2017 had a collection of unnatural disasters, widely believed to be climate change related, which constituted what some are calling the worst cluster of extreme weather catastrophes in history. As 2017 limped to a close, surfers in California wore gas masks- but hey, at least they weren’t migrant farm workers slaving away in the smoke.
On the international scene, the US and North Korea inched closer to possible nuclear war and the Trump administration threw a hand grenade into the Israeli-Palestinian peace process by recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel without any corresponding move towards recognizing Palestinian aspirations.
Elsewhere in vaster fields of horror, Yemen starved and sickened under a Saudi led blockade, and we watched in rage and grief as Myanmar raped, killed and burned their way through the Rohingya villages of Rakhine state, causing 600,000 people to flee in terror.
So I’d like to make a prediction for 2018 (and I’ll hope that my most dire predictions will again be wrong.)
2018 will be worse. 2018 will be the end of peace.
When I say the end of peace, I mean it on two levels.
On one level, war will increase between humans and nature, between nations, between classes, between people groups and genders and the non-gendered. Polarization will get worse, and the sound of constant struggle and argumentation we hear from all quarters will only get louder.
On another level, however, I think 2018 will be the end of a different kind of peace- complacency. The 1% will continue their outrageous assault on everyone else in the coming year, but even for those of us who live in the comfort bubble of upper class modern capitalism and its relative sensual utopia, this will become unbearable to watch and experience. Extreme weather events will be worse, and human-made disasters due to things like toxic spills or infrastructure collapse will be more frequent and severe.
As our sense of comfort and safety erodes, even those whose cells were drenched in the optimism and complacency of growing up in the 70s, 80s and 90s will be radicalized to a greater or lesser degree. Agitation and action of every kind- protest, legal challenge, legislative change, and probably, sadly, even violence, will increase throughout the world.
In 2018 then, I think there will be an end to peace not only because the space we share will be filled with every kind of struggle, but because our complacency will end. All of us will be called in ways large and small to decide what kind of future we want, and to begin fighting for it to come to pass. As the late great Lou Reed once sang, calling for a revolution of action, not words:
This is the time, because there is no time.