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Thursday, 29 December 2016

“Things must get better in 2017, as things getting even worse is hardly possible, after the – on many levels – disastrous year 2016!”. My (rather personal) and angry retrospect on 2016.

And do you feel scared, I do
But I won't stop and falter
And if we threw it all away
Things can only get better

In hindsight 2016 was a really terrible year, on many personal, economic and political levels:
  • I lost the dearest neighbour in the world, due to lethal cancer originating from a normally pretty harmless, but now too lately discovered kind;
  • I almost lost a very dear friend from a nearly-lethal, flesh-eating bacteria infection, only to see him still recover physically (and mentally) more than half a year after this ordeal;
  • My 30 year old niece suffered from a severe stroke and almost saw her life and that of her husband and children lie in tatters. She is also still recovering from her illness;
  • I almost lost another dear neighbour from a nearly-fatal cardiac arrest, which was fortunately treated very quickly, thus saving his life and his general condition;
  • Yet another dear neighbour is now still recovering from nearly-lethal breast cancer that suddenly struck her last year;
  • And again another neighbour is suffering from another (probably lethal) kind of cancer.
And those were only the close relations, living less than 100 meters away from me in Almere Buiten or my closest friends and family.

Besides this, 2016 was also the year in which I had to give up my future as freelancer in the ICT industry, due to both the new DBA law – which made it potentially very risky for companies to hire freelance consultants as they could be treated as employees reciprocally by the Dutch internal revenue service – and my enduring difficulties in finding a new assignment as professional software tester. 

With this decision, I paid a high price for not being the right man at the right moment and for not working with the right people.

It was that I found a job as quality assurance engineer at a genuinely wonderful company – the headoffice for a Dutch, cooperative chain of supermarkets – in which I refound my self-confidence and working happiness, otherwise 2016 would have been an utterly lost and quite sad year on a personal level. A year, of which I only was glad that my family and loved ones survived it eventually.

On top of that some of the biggest talents in the music and film industry died in 2016; artists and characters like David Bowie, Prince, Glenn Frey, George Michael, Rick Parfitt, Carrie Fisher and the ueber-cool Motörhead bass-player Lemmy Kilmister. Real heroes with whom I grew up and to whose music and performances I watched and listened litterally all my life. And those are only the ones that I can recall right now.

Politics was also a mess in 2016, in The Netherlands and abroad: 
  • The Dutch voted in favour of a useless anti-Ukraine referendum, that in the end did not change anything in the relation between the European Union and Ukraine, but reconfirmed the Dutch reputation as a basically very happy nation, with nevertheless a quite narrow-minded view on the world, in the eyes of many other European citizens;
  • On top of that the Dutch put a series of politically destructive butterfingers and kamikaze pilots on 'the pedestal' of temporary political success, while leaving the more moderate politicians in a clueless shock-and-awe, basically caused by their own insignificance and ignorance;
  • The British voted in favour of leaving the European Union, in a campaign based upon sheer lies, unfounded statements of xenophobia and loads of false assumptions that proved untrue within days after the referendum ('NHS-gate'), only to wake up with a political mess and leaders that ran away, while screaming for their mummies;
  • The inhabitants of the Phillippines voted for an self-acclaimed mass-murderer – not only in words but allegedly also in acts – and blatant advocate of ‘executions without a trial’, in case of alleged drugs addicts and criminals, based upon the promise of 'him cleaning out the closet' in that Asian country;
  • A weighted majority of the American people – as a matter of fact a minority according to the system of ‘one man, one vote’ – voted in favour of someone, who scares the shit out of the rest of the American people. A man, feared for his aggressive, gung ho political approach, his political and executive incompetence and lack of experience, as well as his personality akin to a loose cannon, shooting at everything that moves;
  • And the only alternative that the Americans had to choose from – Hillary Clinton – seemed just as unfit and incompetent for the profession of American president, but for different reasons.

Everywhere in Europe and far, far abroad, the population seemed firmly in the grasp of populist politicians from either the far right or the far left side. Not only in Eastern European countries, like Hungary (PM Viktor Órban) and Poland (shadow-president Jaroslaw Kaczynski), but also in the United Kingdom (UKIP-leader Nigel Farage), France (Front National leader Marine le Pen), Germany (Nationaldemokratische Partei Deutschlands and Alternative für Deutschland) and The Netherlands (Party for Freedom leader Geert Wilders).

And president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey?! He is more and more turning into a paranoid Sun King, who considers everybody that thinks differently inside and outside Turkey as his personal enemy, after a coup d’etat against him failed this year. And the European Union is glued to him and his policy, through the unscrupulous refugee-deal, that keeps the refugees out of our European sight, at an unknown, but probably high price.

Only ‘the formerly usual suspect of brewing right extremism’ Austria decided in the end, that they did not want to have an extreme right-wing country leader, in the form of FPÖ’s Norbert Hofer. A gesture, for which I praise and thank the Austrian population.

Europe and especially the European Union turned in the political “ugly ducklings” of the European citizens: appreciated by almost no-one and hated by nearly everyone. Not in the least as a consequence of the politically clumsy utterings (f.i. Jean-Claude Juncker) and the very rigid – almost autistic – neo-liberal policies (f.i. Eurogroup leader Jeroen Dijsselbloem and his 3% budget deficit ‘until death do us part’) of its leaders and officials in the European Commission, the various European (ministerial) councils and the European Central Bank.

Especially chairman Mario Draghi of the European Central Bank, with his increased deployment of Quantitative Easing, seemed an avid fan of the policy: “if a medicine did not work the first time, just increase the dose. And when it still does not work, than simply double the last dose”. The effects of this enhanced medicine will probably be the same as before, namely... ‘nothing’!

And the European politicians? They were so happy that somebody did something about the stalling economy, that they simply rested on their laurels and just looked at the effects of SuperMario’s policy: “Either we did it all right or he did it all wrong, so we cannot be blamed for it after all”. And so every correlation between political policy and the cautiously reappearing economic growth all over Europe in 2016 seemed sheer coincidence and not the effect of sound political decision-making.

The people hate us, but hell did we make them do it!” could be the European leaders’ mantra over the past eight crisis years, in which the European leaders totally lost touch with the European population. And this in combination with the same European leaders’ blatant failure to address the continuing refugee crisis as a whole and undivided Union, while instead trying “to kick the ball on other people’s turf” as soon as they could (in this case in particular Turkey, Greece and Italy).

That was national and international politics within the European Union in a nutshell in 2016: the same ol’ same ol’ as before, but only worse in its execution. This utterly failed policy made it darn hard to not give up on the European Unino and actually many people did.

At the same time, the Cold War in 2016 seemed back at the highest level since it officially ended. The Russians are nowadays accused of everything bad happening in the world and far, far abroad, including being solely responsible for the election of Donald Trump, as well as for the latest software-bug in the Apple iPhone operating system and for causing a big supernova at 15,000 lightyears distance in the Andromeda Nebula. Just saying...

Of course, Russia lies, cheats and rigs a terrible lot and probably many of the accusations made these days are true. They have a former secret agent as president, who has “propaganda” and “deceit” as his middle names and who doesn't scare away from rigging the political cards in his favour. Go figure! 

And on top of that President Vladimir Putin of Russia is more than happy to comply in almost every accusation made to him and scream ‘Up yours” at the rest of the world. He knows that this enhances his popularity and strength in Russia, in spite of his poor political and economic achievements at home.

But when one looks at the – IMHO – sometimes ridiculous accusations that are made against Russia by the US government?! And then remembers how the world was cheated into the ultimately disastrous Second Iraqi war – the “mother of all wars” that spurred the emergence of IS(IS) and caused chaos and havoc in Iraq and eventually the whole Middle East – by Colin Powell and his henchmen?! Such a person knows he really can’t trust any government official for always telling the truth. And the American president and his ministers the least!

As a consequence of all this, the world cries “blue murder” about the (indeed terrible) war in Syria and the undoubted war-crimes of the Russians and the Syrian army. And this is very justified indeed!

Nevertheless, the same people in the Western Society conveniently forget to do the same about the bloody war of “our Saudi-Arabian friends” in Yemen or the liberation of Mosul going awry for many, many Iraqis in distress. 

No, to the contrary, the Saudis can order every new batch of weapons and ammunition in the UK and the United States (and perhaps The Netherlands too), while they get ‘service with a smile’ from their Western allies. 

In 2016 the expressions ‘truth and credibility’ became increasingly under fire, like almost never before! 

So many lies and propaganda from all sides of the political spectrum and between countries have been spread, that it is nearly impossible to distinguish who tells the truth and who doesn’t anymore. Media turn more and more in service-hatches for the powers that be and for the communio opinis, as their editorial staff has been slashed by cutback upon cutback, making it nearly impossible for them to find things out themselves. Repeating the official and most-heard opinions is therefore more convenient and safe.

A tell-tale is that “fake news” became the buzzword of 2016 and that Facebook  as the world's largest media-outlet  initially declared itself ‘innocent’ for all the b*llshit that it spread through its 'billion visitor' website, but nevertheless is working on a solution to prevent from spreading fake news in the future.

And then there was religion-based terrorism, that spread from the Middle East to Europe, via low-tech, but highly successful attacks in France, Belgium and Germany: fighting for causes that few people know and even fewer people understand, but that many people fear. 

Concisely summarized, the world seemed a mess in 2016 and my “Howard Jones-ian” conviction that things should get better in 2017, is only based upon the hope that things can hardly get worse after 2016, unless some idiot causes a global war or a global (climate / food / water / fuel) crisis that crashes the world in misery. 

Therefore I hope that you carry the same glimmer of hope that I do and that you are ready to do your utmost for a better future yourself.

My more specified thoughts for the next year will be published in my outlook on 2017, that will appear soon on this website!

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