It’s the funniest thing. Nearly 20 years ago, I watched Blade Runner (the 1982 film) for the first time, with the action occurring in 2019. It was a hellish dystopia with buckets of rain pouring down on neon-reflective, overcrowded streets. The smoky-thick skyline was dominated by thousand-foot towers, with massive flames bursting from their tops, and flying cars (or spinners) maneuvering in-between them. It was the 2019 we imagined, and one that fascinated many of us, even in 2019.
But let’s not kid ourselves here. 2019 sucked. Oh it sucked so hard. It’s as if we pulled all the bad stuff from Blade Runner’s 2019 and discarded everything else. For one, we still have no flying cars (which, if some of you have noticed, I bring up a lot) in fact it feels we’ve gone backwards in flight; a prime example was one of the world’s leading aerospace giants, Boeing, seemingly cut corners on development and manufacturing of their planes, leading to massive lawsuits, government investigations and the MAX-series 737, the fatally-flawed plane that claimed the lives of 346 people. The company failed to prove it was not out of the interest of greed and financial gain; as such, its CEO resigned after literally no one believed his rubbish apology.
Needless to say, air travel got scary. And to this day, not all responsible for the disasters involving the MAX have been taken to task.
Then all the reports came in about the condition of our planet. The real text, not the “oh, we should try to take care of Earth more” but the “yeah, we’re kinda fucked if we don’t change our ways ASAP” stuff. It was like a global awakening of sorts. Suddenly, everyone started talking about climate change; well, almost everyone.
Did anything change? Ah, depends on how you look at it. There’s definitely a movement now, especially among youth, to try and change our ways. The problem has entered public consciousness, but its imminent threat still isn’t as “immediate” to many as much as it should. We still consume unnecessarily. We still discard things that end up in the landfill, or the ocean. Just look at all the crap inside a typical Walmart and you’ll know why the world has a pollution problem.
Yet it was still more in 2019 than just climate change stirring people up across the world. It’s shitty living conditions. Shitty prospects. Shitty jobs with unreasonable expectations and zero reward. Limitless corporate greed and vaporization of the middle-class. People are unhappy. I’m unhappy. The many work to survive, often to the bone, while others profit over and over again. Ironically in 2019, many companies made money, yet despite their gains, we’ve seen countless businesses lay off thousands of people. In GM’s case, right before the holidays, after they closed down the Oshawa assembly plant, sending home around 2,400 people and ending a tradition that sustained the entire region for 114 years. November was by far the worst month of the year, at least in Canada, for job losses, with 71,200 estimated across the country.
Deserving a worthy mention is also Bank of Montreal, which cut 2,300 jobs (or 5 per cent of its workforce) again, in December, shortly after posting earnings of $1.19 billion. Yes. BILLION. If anything, 2019 was a lovely reminder that people are no longer people; they are machines to make money for the uber-rich, and when they are no longer needed, they are disposed of like they never were anything in the first place.
Something is seriously fucking wrong here, you may think. Well, millions of others have too. In fact, some have decided to take their frustration out on the streets, as their livelihoods are threatened beyond just a jackass in a suit paying their salaries. Hong Kong has seen its biggest uprising since its independence, all due to political infiltration and forced control by China, which seeks, as it always has, to make Hong Kong a part of itself again.
Since the protests began last spring, we’ve seen the protesters’ demands morph from stopping China in passing its extradition bill, to ending police brutality, to political equality and to social equality and the desire for better prospects for all – something we can all get behind. What’s happening in Hong Kong is a reflection of what’s happening world-wide, again, because people are unhappy. Why? Because no one wants to be a number, or a slave.
Unfortunately, there are less voices left in the world to tell those much-needed stories; the stories that expose, that call out and rightfully demonize the evil entities that exploit and abuse our world. Fear and greed has eaten away at journalism and the newspaper industry like a stage four cancer, and 2019 is a perfect example. Across the nation, publications shut down one after another, with both starting and veteran journalists tossed into the void, facing what is a virtually-non-existent job market in journalism. Journalism is something that can’t be priced, but unfortunately the fleshy things that have to make it happen need to feed themselves too. Sadly, few in the newspaper industry have been able to understand that.
Okay, deep breath. Good? Do it again. Feels a bit better, right? Well, we did it through 2019, because, hey, we wouldn’t be here right now. It’s important to recognize the signs of our times; it keeps us on our toes; keeps us awake. It also keeps us alive. A shitty job may break us, but it should never break our spirit, not like it did in 2019. It should inspire us to do better, to fight harder, to be better people to ourselves and to others. 2019 showed us some of the worst that humanity can put out, but it’s time to see some of that good; it can’t be like this. It shouldn’t. No one should work to survive, because that’s a sure fucking way to die. No one should pay for someone’s greed or negligence; we have to take control of our lives and say enough is enough. To stand up, with courage, and say, “I do deserve better. I am human. I want to live.”
I have no idea if 2020 will be better; there’s never any guarantee either/or. The important thing, now more than ever, is to remind ourselves that 2019 is gone, and here we stand at the start of a new chapter in our lives. How we write it out this time rests entirely on us.
Happy New Year everybody. Let’s make 2020 count.