As the year comes to a close, it’s time to take stock. It’s been… bizarre. We haven’t really seen anything like it. Standards have shifted so dramatically that the world is almost unrecognisable. So it’s all the more important to check on where we are.
The American administration is like a hurricane. It’s blustery, it’s all over the shop, it wreaks havoc, and things show up in places they shouldn’t. A cow flying past your window, for example, is like the president getting involved in a celebrity slap fight on twitter. Cows and celebrity slap fights are relatively unremarkable things on their own, but seeing them in that particular context tells you that something is deeply wrong.
But I’m not even going to go into what’s wrong with the White House, because there aren’t enough pixels on the Internet. We don’t even get a moment to digest the day’s scandal before we’re on the next piece of unprecedentedly unpresidential news. We’re so discombobulated we don’t know where to start. We need an anchor, to remember which way is up. And kindness should be our guiding light.
So let’s have a look at some good news from the year, some of which may have escaped unnoticed, due to whatever farts came out of the president’s twitter that day.
The tsunami of allegations of sexual misconduct on the part of powerful men have heralded the beginning of the end of the patriarchy. Women are standing up to be counted, and the world is actually listening.
Danica Roem is a 33-year-old American who was just elected to the Virginia House of delegates. The guy she beat was a republican incumbent who’d been there for 25 years named Bob Marshall. He literally called himself “chief homophobe”. (Seriously, who does that?) This already seems like a good news story as it is, but when you learn that Danica is a transgender woman (the first to be elected in her state), and that Bob had horrible things to say about her personally (calling her a dude in a dress, etc.) it goes straight to the pool room. She campaigned on the issues of infrastructure, education, and health. She kept it clean and positive. And she walloped him. Voters roundly rejected Marshall’s crap.
But here’s the kicker: When asked if there was anything she would like to say to him after her victory, and she said “come January he’s going to be one of my constituents, and I don’t attack my constituents”. That right there is the strength of civility. The power of kindness. It’s not the ball game itself, but it might just be the breath between waves that we need to survive.
Next we turn to Iceland, where voters just elected Katrín Jakobsdóttir, an environmental activist from the Green Left Wing of Icelandic Politics, to the Prime Ministership. Again, she didn’t campaign on divisive fear mongering; there were no walls or travel bans in her stump speech. She promised to restore trust in government, to fight for gender equality, to invest in health care, education, and transport infrastructure, and make Iceland entirely carbon neutral by 2040. She and her husband have three young children, and translate books on how to raise ecologically sensitive children in their spare time.
In New Zealand, the world’s youngest leader was elected — a charming progressive social democrat, Jacinda Ardern. She describes herself as a feminist who is committed to social welfare. Her platform of policies are a check-list of common sense: Increase the refugee intake, compulsory teaching of Maori in schools, abortion rights, strong maternity leave legislation, strong action on climate change, liberal cannabis policy, and removing the hereditary monarch. She has already brought a breath of fresh air to the global political stage.
To show that this is not just about gender, France didn’t elect the far-right Marine Le Penn, and while Emmanuel Macron is more of a centrist than a socialist, he still calls himself “liberal … If by liberalism one means trust in man.” It is this cornerstone belief that unites progressives — a rejection of conservative pessimism, and a celebration of what we can achieve when we work together. He has already stood up to the white house by besting the ogre at his ridiculous handshake game, and has offered out-of-work climate scientists a job. It’s not much, but it’s a start.
In Saudi Arabia, women were allowed to drive for the first time, as part of sweeping (and often controversial) overhauls made by the new young prince. Did they do it because it’s bad for their image, rather than genuinely believing in freedom and equality? Sure. Great. We have successfully gotten the world to a place where that looks bad and that is a victory. Well done team. Unsurprisingly, this will have massive positive effects for the Saudi economy, by allowing half the bloody workforce to move freely about.
In the face of decades of absolute horse shit, including men saying that male drivers would not know how to handle having women in cars next to them, or that allowing women to drive would lead to promiscuity and the collapse of the Saudi family, or that that driving harmed women’s ovaries, finally reason prevailed. As it inevitably will.
Speaking of extending basic human rights to people irrespective of gender in the face of staunch and absurd conservative opposition: Closer to home, the Australian public voted overwhelmingly in favour of giving our gay brothers and sisters the love and respect they deserve, and to have their relationships recognized by law, and both houses of parliament quickly legislated accordingly.
The streets were awash with smiles and happiness, rainbows and glitter, hugs, and proposals. “Hold this”, one man said, passing a flag off. Getting down on one knee, he asked another human to spend the rest of their lives together. He said yes. The first man got to his feet and declared to the crowd “11 years I’ve been with this bloke. And now I can bloody marry him.” Finally, reason prevailed. As it inevitably will.
A Liberal frontbencher gave an emotionally full-throated defence of the Muslim community and the garbs they wear. Victoria passed voluntary assisted dying legislation. The Greens took the seats of Northcote and Maiwar. The national broadcaster moved its music countdown to a day when all Australians can celebrate it.
In sports, the AFL launched the AFLW, to rapturous crowds. The players put on a great show and the fans and families loved it. It is going to continue to expand in the coming years.
The Australians women’s soccer team beat legendary global powerhouse Brazil 3 times in a row, which is basically unheard of.
It didn’t start this year, but the WBBL is “back for a third season and is visiting more areas than ever before, with Canberra, Launceston, Geelong and Alice Springs all on the schedule”. It continues to deliver exciting cricket for the fans, proving that pretty much the only thing gender defines is how you pee.
And not wanting to be left out, the NRL announced they would be launching their own Women’s league. This shows that the paradigm has well and truly shifted. The scale has tipped, and now, it is out of place for a sports code to NOT have a women’s league. Oh, and the Australian women’s Rugby League team won the world cup.
Michelle Obama famously said: ”when they go low, we go high”. Kindness is more powerful than spite. And this of all years has demonstrated that. In the face of critical institutional failure, the human spirit has shone brighter than ever before.
That’s the thing about hurricanes. They blow over. And while they are here, they strengthen our resolve. We get better. This has been a powerful year. And we can all be better for it.