2016: The Ending of the Year of Beginnings

Probably the most memorable year in decades, 2016 was a non-stop accumulation of turning points and landmark events. In broad terms, we began to witness the demise of globalism, the rise of deglobalization, and the sunset of (neo)liberal imperialism. Not only did the nation matter once again, so did the triumph of local narratives and regional forces reassert themselves. From a purely subjective point of view, the events that had the greatest weight for me were:

(1) The passing of Fidel Castro, a monumental figure in world history, a Caribbean giant who shaped events around the world for decades. Outliving 638 US assassination attempts, and living through 11 separate US presidential administrations, Fidel the fighter died by natural causes, not imperial ones. Praised by representatives of 80% of humanity in the days following his death, Fidel, a man of massive intellect who makes most of our leaders look like silly children, stood out yet again as the pope of decolonization and anti-imperialism. He was always “there” for my entire life, and he remains there as a living legacy, an inescapable point of reference.

(2) The retaking of Aleppo: finally Syria made a huge advance in reclaiming its territory in a major turning point in the long, proxy war of regime change being fought by the US and its Gulf State allies. Freed from the utter savagery of the terrorist forces that held them hostage in their own city for years, the residents of Aleppo came out in massive numbers to cheer the victory of their national government, and even to celebrate Christmas. Syria thus effectively announced that it would not accept being reduced to a terra nullius of a small club of imperial states that calls itself “the international community,” that it would not be an object of abduction. The officials in the US who had said that “Assad must go,” and that “Assad’s days are numbered,” are now packing up and leaving in their final days in power, jeered out of office by millions who took part in a momentous political upheaval in the US itself.

(3) One of the engines of neoliberal globalization, that enforced unequal terms of integration within its ranks, the European Union was hobbled. First the Brexit vote in the UK in June, and then the Italian referendum in December, with sides opposed to the current regime winning by margins that no one anticipated, both ensured that 2016 will be written down as a pivotal year for European history. Events on the other side of the Atlantic only seemed to bolster the cause of national self-determination. In addition, 2016 finally saw the return of the working class, readmitted into the political vocabulary of the same mainstream discourse that for decades tried to make it vanish, along with the concept of imperialism.

(4) The outstanding defeat of Hillary Clinton, and with her the politics of liberal imperialism, the power of the advertising industry, public relations, propaganda, the institutionalized expert class, and above all, the corporate mass media. The losers are still trying desperately to manage this defeat, by trying to turn it into what it wasn’t. Their methodology is the usual one, the one that earned them such a richly deserved defeat: a denial of any responsibility for the consequences they generated, and a denial of reality. Utopian neoliberalism, with illusions sustained by massive cash infusions from corporate lobbies and think tanks, passed its peak and now stood naked in the cold, mumbling incoherently: “Russia, it was Russia, Russia did it…Putin.”

(5) Libya—I expected Libya to be conveniently forgotten during the US presidential campaign that began in 2015, and for a while that seemed to hold. By late 2015, however, Libya was instead very much on the agenda of debate, and remained there to the end. Libya, which was the site of the US’ first foreign war, persisted as a zone of imperial devastation and chaos. The only “good news,” if one can call it that, is that 2016 also manifested that plans to effectively turn the nation into a new UN protectorate, had crashed. Rule by science fiction was rejected by Libyans who refuse to surrender the reins over their own future, and by regional allies who assert themselves as more significant power brokers than the now distant and weakened US.

As for Zero Anthropology, 2016 was by almost any measure our most successful and productive year, with 2017 marking a decade that it has been in existence. While still sticking to slow publishing, what was published was almost always quite large, usually extended over a series of articles. In twos, threes, and fours, these series amounted to a total of 35 articles for 2016. Of those 35, the top 5 articles in terms of the number of readers on this site were, in descending order:

  1. Why Donald J. Trump Will Be the Next President of the United States
  2. Immigration and Capital
  3. Trump and Anthropology
  4. The World Changed Overnight
  5. 101 Things We Learned from WikiLeaks’ Podesta Emails

Many thanks to our growing number of readers and subscribers. Let’s see if 2017 can’t outdo 2016 in importance, because it certainly cannot undo it.

4 thoughts on “2016: The Ending of the Year of Beginnings

  1. A big thanks from me for writing thought provoking articles. I have enjoyed reading them and look forward to your continuing analysis. From NZ, events overseas seem remote (although less so with modern communication), but what happens impacts us enormously.

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