2016: What just happened?

This year has been about the changing face of rhetoric. Once considered the art of persuasive speaking, it now is little more than soundbites, lacking in sincerity, content or even sense, and political debate is confrontation rather than persuasion.

A teacher at my old school once said, "Two students receive their test results. One got 50% and said, 'I passed.' The other got 49% and said, 'I failed.' "

The teacher was stating 50% is not a meaningful pass. On a colour spectrum, it is neither black nor white, but grey, of which there are fifty shades.

And as we saw in 2016, binary victories were declared on little more than a pass mark. Divisiveness over such narrow margins is not victory. If nothing more, it shows that the population is in conflict and it needs to be educated, or healed. There are always two sides to an argument, but if a result comes in at 50/50 or 45/55 then the case for neither side has been made properly. The message has been lost in its reduction to the soundbite.

But we have not helped with our own desire for information to become entertainment.

2016 showed us we are not as open-minded and compassionate as we thought we were. It showed the world wanted to live in a time that no longer exists--if it ever did--in the dreams of yesteryear, which seems to be the 1950s. We shrunk away from a complex and scary world that operated in ways we couldn’t understand or trust and hurt people through relentless corporatization and globalization.

And debate continued in confrontation rather than persuasion, because confrontation is about the anger of today, while persuasion is about the dreams of tomorrow. In the end, concern about today won. As the world readies for its great step back into golden memory, we sit at a unique point in time. Maybe an isolationist policy will work for the world and everyone focuses back on themselves, their neighbours, community – those things we complain that we’ve lost.

Or maybe nothing will change, and the new (old) world order will find new ways of hurting the less fortunate even more, and the disparity of wealth will continue to increase.

Who knows.

2016 was about confrontation. Let’s make 2017 about persuasion. Let’s listen more, understand more, think more before acting, not simply overreact to a soundbite. Consider both sides using the grey matter in between our ears, and know that the modern world is complex enough to have black, white and fifty shades of grey.