We are less than seven days away from the end of what most of us will remember as the lousiest year in recent memory. It all went downhill the moment David Bowie died. Trump happened. Fake news happened. Hillary didn’t get elected when Bernie should have been the Democratic Party nominee. (I know, there’s a lot of die-hards out there who think she got ripped off when in truth, she was a not entirely likeable candidate and she was up against a lunatic.) Prince died. Carrie Fisher died. Debbie Reynolds died a day later. Alan Thicke died. George Michael died on Christmas freaking Day, and 2016 took all these other famous people we liked and admired.
For me, I’ve had health issues all year starting with persistent chronic back pain (a daily reminder from my years as an infantry soldier) and a diabetes diagnosis which I am working damned hard to fix. Add to this, I experienced major league writer’s block for most of 2016 which, I think I’ve moved past now, thank heaven.
Everybody I know just wants this shit bird of a year to end and we are all of us hoping that 2017 will be better … much better than 2016. (It’s going to be hard. A reality TV star who thinks grabbing women by the genitalia is okie dokie will be sworn in as President of the United States and he’s already musing about nukes, nukes and more nukes.)
All through 2016, we have seen social media explode with tribal division. I have lost track of how many people show up in my Facebook feed holding a sheet of paper in front of their chests with their important message to raise our awareness of (insert cause or social/political outrage here). You can’t have an adult talk about climate change, carbon taxes and a host of other things because you might poke the Internet outrage machine. (You know it’s true.)
There are days when I truly wish for a solar flare to melt the grid and send us back to the 1860s because I do believe that with the explosion in social media options available to us, we are now in a constant state of self-promotion (buy my book, buy my product, subscribe to my YouTube channel, like my stuff, follow me on Twitter, Instagram, etc, etc, etc, etc and so on.) When we aren’t self promoting what we ate last night or mommy/daddy-jacking each other’s social media feeds to talk about our kids (because our kids are the only ones that matter, right?) we were flaming the living shit out of each other for our political views or our social views or our climate change views or our views on sexuality, gender, you name it. Seriously, the list goes on and on and on. It’s nuts.
If there are any advanced life forms out there in high earth orbit or perhaps living among us, they must truly believe we are all crazy. We are, in my opinion, more divided now than at any time in my 49 years of existence. We are yelling at each other online. Flaming each other. Jumping on each other. And when we’re not claiming the moral high ground because our political view is right and everyone else is wrong, we’re posting self-improvement messages – as if the Internet is some planet sized fridge and all our feel good self-improvement messages are individual fridge magnets.
How the hell do we move on? How can we find the middle ground? The good middle ground. That place where people who disagree can meet and debate ideas or solve problems without the whole of the world turning into Planet Butt Hurt?
Mea culpa: I have been guilty of losing my shit online. So I’m going to start my list of things I’d like to see in 2017 by working on me. I gotta stop getting mad when I see posts of things I disagree with. I need to step back and just count to ten because in the grand scheme of things it is a waste of my energy and creativity to disagree with someone who posts their point of view online. I’m going to stay out of the comments section of CBC News or The National Post (if it still exists and doesn’t fold) or The Globe and Mail. I’m going to just put both hands on my desk and push when I see other people slamming the left for being smug, self-important and self-righteous, the right for being myopic, sexist, homophobic, the center, for, well, not taking a stand on everything.
Oh … and racism. We are all racists when we’re the dominant culture in a nation. There are lefty racists, righty racists, and centrist racists. Yes, I know you might disagree, but when you feel a visceral reaction while watching a nightly news story about Syrian immigrants coming to your country (because their nation is basically destroyed) and you get pissed off at the government for spending your tax dollars on programs and services for refugees when there is unemployment in your region, that’s racism. (I know, some of you are butt hurt that I wrote that. I understand.) When you don’t actually understand why Black Lives Matter exists it means you’re white and the cops aren’t killing you because of the colour of your skin. Oh, and cops killing black folks? That there is racism. Getting mad about black folks getting mad about cops who kill them? That there is racism too.
I’m disengaging. For my own sanity. Because, seriously, posting Internet memes about those whose tribe you don’t hang with solves precisely nothing. We are a planet of inter-connected human beings of different races, religions, sexual orientation and political views and we are all posting shit on Facebook about how much everybody else’s tribe is wrong and our tribe is right.
Oh, and USA? Think it sucks now that you’ve got Trump? Here in Canada, this bald headed rich white guy wants to be Prime Minister!
So what do I want to see in 2017? Here’s my bucket list:
- Stop losing our shit online
- Stop posting our visceral dislike of another tribe online. Where has that gotten us so far? I mean, seriously? Has it changed the world? Is December 2016 fundamentally better than December 2015?
- Stop posting in the comments section.
- Stop holding signs in front of our chests with our cause of the day.
- Stop posting pictures of what we ate last night at The Keg. Keep it up and I will start posting pictures of people enjoying Kraft Dinner. Every day.
- Start posting stuff about how you helped.
- Keep posting about the books we read and the movies we saw. And Jesus, Internet, people are @#$% allowed to dislike the Star Wars movies, okay? I hated Star Wars The Force Awakens. It sucked ass. It was a rip-off of the film I saw on my 10th birthday in 1977. I also hated Captain America Civil War – it was 100% garbage. I did, however, love the hell out of Deadpool.
- I’d like to see more authors helping cross promote other authors. I started a little forum for authors to share space in their newest books for a sample chapter from another author’s forthcoming book. One author signed up. I added a chapter of another author’s book in my novel IMMORTAL REMAINS. I don’t know if it helped his sales but I thought, what the hell, it can’t hurt.
- I’d like to see literacy explode. I would love to see authors promoting the crap out of literacy because it isn’t just about reading words. It’s about understanding ideas. It’s about sparking creativity. It’s about improving everybody’s lot in life.
- I’d like to see authors tweet one other author’s book every day for 365 days. What if all authors did that for every other author?
- I’d like to see everyone who gets trolled or bullied on social media to just post this one thing in response to every trolling or bullying thing that is said about them. Don’t engage in discussion. Don’t write words to trolls. Just post this one animated GIF. Repeatedly. Over and over again.
- Finally, I’d like for all of us to be here on December 26, 2017 and feeling better about our lives, the world, the future. It’s going to be hard. Donald Trump is going to be sworn in. (Those who voted for Trump, I support your right to vote for the guy. I support your different reasons why. I don’t like your guy one little bit. Most reasonable people are terrified that he’s got access to nuclear codes. You voted for him because you felt left out. I get that. You are not hicks. You are not rednecks who fell out of a turnip truck. You breathe air like I do, like everyone else does. We eat three squares a day and we have to figure out how to get along. Somehow. Those who didn’t support Trump, shut the hell up. Okay? He won. Posting Internet memes about him ain’t gonna solve the next four years. Getting involved in the political process will. Volunteering. Get your local person elected. Do whatever you have to do within the system that you’ve got to make sure he doesn’t win in four years.)
I guess, Internet, what I am saying is that we have to figure out how to get along. We have to stop engaging in behaviors that simply act to inflame those who we oppose. How the hell can we meet in the middle when we can’t see the middle because we’ve got a big-ass sheet of paper in front of our chest with our slogan of the day? How can we help each other and heal each other when we’re too damned busy telling each other that we’re all wrong?
I’m sure there is an identity group I have pissed off by writing this blog post. Sorry you’re pissed off. Everybody is pissed off right now. Everybody is @$*# tired of everything. 2016 has been an awful year. 2017 won’t be any better unless we can start to make our little corner of it better.
I’m going to write a pair of novels now. One is a detective novel that my agent would like very much to see. Another is the sequel to IMMORTAL REMAINS which a lot of Tim Reaper fans would like to see.
Let’s move on from here. We have to move on. We just have to.
Happy Holidays and the best for 2017.