Have we arrived at the end of an era?

Ever wonder where the ‘end of nigh’ signs have gone? A cultural icon from the Cold War years, their absence in this calamitous year shows just how much easier it’s become to disseminate the doom-and-gloom mantra without being chastised as a war-worn, half-crazed smelly person. But whilst there’s fair reason to suppose we’re at an end, the world isn’t about to be torn asunder, the seas shall not part, and the sky remains steadfast up ahead. It is, however, the end of an era – an era of conformity, mass political correctness, and a quiet resignation to let our personal woes be buried down, deep down.

Both at home and in the US, 2016 has been a year of earth-shattering surprises and rapid transitions. It’s been unnerving; like a once-thin line on the horizon that disguised a momentous wave, the ferocious desire for change has caught us all by surprise.  

And yet equally surprising has been our relatively short recovery period. Much of the vivacious reaction to Brexit simmered to a tempered boil soon after the result. There weren’t any memorable protests or demonstrations. No real chaos ensued, and the heated language of the immediate aftermath was soon replaced by a narrative of blame and hindsight, accompanied by a reluctant, confused acceptance.

Apathy has a way with the modern world; we adjust. From raising the ‘end is nigh’ sign, our arms become tired. We don’t really believe in the sentiment, nor are convinced of our ability to speak out against a movement that we cannot feign to understand. For many, those that voted for Brexit – and similarly for Trump in the US – are the elusive unspoken, quietly living amongst us, but beneath the platform of social media. Until the unveiling of their collective power, their existence was pushed aside.

It may seem like society has suddenly shifted in a reverse direction, but in fact this force has always been here, enacting its will against a power which has long seemed too great to slow down: globalisation. Both America and the UK share the same fate: countries haunted by manufacturing towns left forgotten, with reassurances of an improving economy doing little to abate disenfranchisement.  

London has prospered enormously, but that prosperity failed to materialise outside of its walls. The post-result hysteria is a whiplash response to the realisation that all is not well. For those in New York and London, 2016 will be a year of disenchantment, in which the curtain decorated by greener pastures and better futures was ruthlessly pulled away. Where it seems that everything has changed, it’s closer to the truth to say that everything has been revealed. We’ve exhumed the other half, leaving many shocked to learn that it was there at all.

For too long our worlds have grown isolated from each other. We’re not ‘together’ in any meaningful sense, and if social justice, openness and exclusivity are to survive, they should do so as intrinsic values, and not as tools exercised to preserve the established order. The new era will be one of reconciliation. Discontent can no longer be met by silence, and we’ll all have to accept that our pre-2016 world was built on shaky ground to begin with. Change is coming, for good and for bad, with the silver lining being the promise of a more honest, out-in-the-open world, with our evils and failings readily known.