Lessons of 2016

Yes, I know the year still has a week and change to drop another bomb or three (metaphorical only, please) on us, but I doubt the lessons this writer has learned from it are going to change that much.

The first and most obvious is that when it comes to life, you can’t win, you can’t break even, and the only way out is in a box. The steady stream of boxes containing beloved figures this year (along with a few bastards) made that point rather forcefully.

You can – and bloody well should – do your best to make your part in things as good as you can, and to improve the general state of affairs for everyone else in some way. I personally suspect that whatever measure the ultimate judge of our lives chooses will include the question of whether we tried to help those who could not help themselves (those who refuse to help themselves are another matter and an argument I don’t want to have right now), whether we tried to choose the paths that did the least harm to the fewest people while aiming for the greatest good to the greatest number of people.

It’s a fuzzy sort of thing to be looking at, but let’s face it, I’m a writer. I have cats. Fuzzy is inevitable, and usually purrs.

Seriously, if there isn’t a place in whatever afterlife might exist for those of us who entertain people and make them a little happier for a while, it’s not the kind of afterlife I want to be part of. The person who’s at the bottom of the pit and ready to give up can be convinced to hold on just a little longer by a book or something that entertains them and gives them reason to hope. It doesn’t matter if what does this is the latest literary masterpiece of angst or a piece of shameless pulp fiction: if it does that job, it’s helped to save that person’s life.

Another lesson that got hammered in is that life does not have to make sense. If it had to make sense, things would be very different. There are times when I’m so pissed off about the way things happen because if I wrote a fraction of that into a book I’d be laughed out of the room. Just one of the WTF events of 2016 would be enough to have people giving me the hairy eyeball. I mean, in what sane universe would anyone dare to openly assassinate a Russian ambassador? That’s asking to have yourself and everyone and everything you care about turned into glowing dust.

Okay, they might go easy on the glowing, what with the general attitude to nuclear weaponry and the fact that most of the world’s stock is kind of elderly, but the Russians have a history of taking this kind of thing seriously. In the form of “do not pass Go, go directly to gulag” seriously if you’re lucky (for meanings of lucky that do not include the biggest mercy of a quick death you weren’t expecting).

Now, the conspiracy-minded (or authorial) sorts could easily turn this into an act intended to spark a war between Russia and Turkey (“that thing in Syria? That’s not a war. This is a war.” followed by four and twenty MiG jets, a pocketful of ICBMs and a whole lot of mess kind of war that would leave Turkey thinking of Afghanistan as the pinnacle of civilization). It would make a fun sort of thriller, now that life has demonstrated that yes, people can be dumb enough to do that and think it will make their point.

But on the whole, this is on the same level of “were you thinking?” as invading Russia in winter.

There is a slight whiff of hope, thought, which comes from these unlikely and bizarre events: if anything can happen, there is a possibility that it will happen, and as all Pratchett fans know, million to one chances crop up nine times out of ten. It’s very important that the probability be exactly a million to one, though. Anything else obeys the normal laws of physics and statistics. Only at precisely a million to one will the laws of narrativium kick in, and the biggest lesson of 2016 is that narrativium actually can defy physics, mathematics, gravity, and reality.

So maybe, just maybe, if enough of us believe fervently enough that life will make sense, it could actually happen.

46 Comments

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46 responses to “Lessons of 2016

  1. Fuzzy around here barks.

  2. CACS

    As a child who had reached a certain age I upset Momma because I would not clap. What she did not understand was that as a child of that certain age I did not yet understand how much the world needed magic. I know better now.

  3. I think the problem with the world is that most people believe it makes sense. Unfortunately what people think is sensible varies wildly. So people do things that are sensible in their vision of the world. The collision of all these interior narratives being acted out causes a little extra chaos in the real world.

    The only question now is: Has the population reached a critical mass of conflicting ideas of sensible to go critical?

    Mind you, the vast majority of the bad news this year is the natural result of the Baby Boomers reaching the age where life and early bad choices catch up to them. Bummer, Dude.

    And politics.

    • Luke

      Camus was right. (shrug) The world is fundamentally absurd. The best you can do, is make your own meaning and be in on the joke.

  4. I mean, in what sane universe would anyone dare to openly assassinate a Russian ambassador?

    There’s always the option that they didn’t openly assassinate anyone, someone framed somebody else for openly assassinating a Russian ambassador.

    It’s not like either Turkey or Russia would hesitate to do that, after all, especially if the rumors about Russian officials “unofficially” suggesting the CIA did it are true. That’s totally Russian, and what’s-his-face in Turkey seems to be using their playbook.

    • BobtheRegisterredFool

      Maybe he was a lone nut, and Turkish security was just that incompetent by accident.

      On the other hand, one of the Russian foreign ministry managers was recently murdered in Moscow, which would probably have come from inside the Russian government.

      Historically, the Russians would’ve killed some people and mutilated the bodies for this. That probably needs to happen here, or the institution of diplomacy will be undermined even further than it already has been.

      I do think the US government has officials stupid enough to try this sort of thing, but I would hope that they don’t have the competence and pull to get this sort of thing done.

      • Apparently our recent demonstrate lack of ept has not prevented some Turks and Russians from deciding that the CIA was behind the assassination in Ankara. Which makes me wonder just what is bubbling in the water chamber of the samovar.

        • BobtheRegisterredFool

          It makes perfect sense for the Turks to blame the CIA, as long as they aren’t officially responsible for proving it.

          A Pennsylvanian named Gulen is apparently the current regime’s Emmanuel Goldstein. Anything they can blame on him is a good excuse.

          The CIA is wildly overhyped, and their target audience is not exactly very well read on US defense issues, so that will be plausible enough.

          As for the Russians, insinuating a malign American influence, here via the CIA, has been a part of their internal and external propaganda strategies for a long time.

          • Luke

            Let’s also note that the CIA just picked a fight with the incoming administration. (As if we needed more evidence of institutional stupidity.)
            .
            A foreign power asking for an official inquiry is an easy get. It gives the Trump administration an excuse to do the anal probe it wanted to do anyway.
            Out of such backscratching are agreements formed.

      • Yep, Russians have never been exactly shy of terminating their own, if that person became inconvenient in some way. And if that can then be blamed on somebody or something convenient, why not?

        Plenty of possible suspects in this story.

    • Most of that part of the world does with their own variants, usually more lacking in self control.

      • *sad sigh* You know, the more I find out bits ‘n chunks, the more it seems like the modern monsters are only unusual in doing it while being “mainstream”– the Russian tactics are pretty normal for the middle eastern countries, the Nazi stuff was bog normal goals with modern methods, Israel’s according-to-the-news amazing brutality is survival level for anyone living with feral humans, etc.

        • It’s downright merciful compared to what the other guys are pulling. The Kurds and the King of Jordan (as differentiated from the more middle-eastern-norm citizen in his country.) have similar issues. The latter has the complication of having to try and civilize the feral humans he rules over and try and make them play nice with others. I do not want his job. Nope.

          • “I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU HIT HIM!”
            “Did you miss the part where he was trying to kill me?
            “But you hit him! He can’t help it, it’s how he is, but you didn’t have to hit him!”
            “He was TRYING TO KILL ME!!”

            • I have seen such discussions occur after the fact. Not quite that obvious, but that was the core of the statement. I was impressed that the individual on the ‘but he was trying to kill me’ side did not slap the other individual silly. (Me? I was just waiting to get some paper work done and they didn’t even know I was there.)

          • Luke

            This is more or less why (now that we’re energy independent) I’m perfectly fine with ceding hegemony over the Middle East to the Russian bastards.
            Sure, Putin will make a desert and call it peace. Possibly with the traditional pyramids of human skulls. But sometimes, that’s the best outcome available.

            • BobtheRegisterredFool

              Unless they’ve been running the Islamic terrorists as proxies against Europe and the US.

              Russian intelligence was very likely using wikileaks as a cutout back when wikileaks released that information which compromised our human intelligence efforts against the Islamic terrorists. Which resulted in the murder of very many people who had been collaborating with us. There would’ve been little for them to do that if they didn’t want the Islamic terrorists in a stronger position, without them being tied to it.

              You know I’m a bloody minded simpleton. I’m feeling more and more like we should exterminate the Russians.

              • Luke

                Our society gets the vapors over exterminating Muslim fanatics who openly swear to kill us and all we hold dear. (And some 1400 years of proof that they’re entirely serious.)
                There’s no way we’re going to suddenly become hardasses on Russkies.

                I don’t challenge the assertion that Russia has been aiding and abetting fundamental Islamists since at least the 1960s.
                But since we no longer have a national interest in the stability of the Middle East, let them deal with the vipers they’ve nurtured. Chechnya proves they’re willing and capable of doing so.
                Let them have their land war in Asia. Our enemies can slaughter each other to their heart’s content while we eat popcorn and cheer them on.

                • Kind of hard on the Kurds, Isreal, and the King of Jordan who HAVE been allies to us, even over the current president’s irrational and backstabbing behavior. Stick the knife in and twist it why don’t you? I’ll be blunt. do you think the waves of invasion will stop with Europe? Do you honestly think the crackpots will leave us alone just because Russia is there? Russia couldn’t handle them LAST time they tangled. Do you really want to deal with a middle east SUPPORTED by Russia?

                • You’re rather ignoring that same 1400 years of proof that it is our interest, because they never freaking stay in the middle east. They just take over the stuff that’s close and then move outwards.

                • BobtheRegisterredFool

                  The folks pretending to have vapors may well be a small minority of disinformation providers with ties to Russian influence networks.

            • No, Putin will pull strings and point them at us. The twisty minded bastard is old enough to remember their attempt to take Afghanistan. I look for the next Coup vs. Turkey’s leadership to be Russian backed and much more successful. Why should he glass the middle east even with this assassination? It’s providing him so much leverage against the West.

              If this sounds familiar, it’s because it was Russia’s play book during the Cold War. Welcome to round two.

        • Sam L.

          I keep saying that IF the Israelis actually did what they’ve been accused of doing, none but the insane would even think of messing with them.

    • snelson134

      “There’s always the option that they didn’t openly assassinate anyone, someone framed somebody else for openly assassinating a Russian ambassador. ”

      And the Kurds are the #1 candidate for the frame-up. Turkey would love to sic the Russians on the Kurds.

  5. Uncle Lar

    On a more positive note, 2016 is the year we gained us a shiny new citizen. Again, welcome to this crazy mess we call a country Kate dear.
    And Fidel went to hell, not in itself a bad thing, or so a whole bunch of past and present Cubans think.
    And too, I am increasingly of the mind that two other institutions either died or teetering on the brink in 2016: one being a disfunctional slavish need to respect political correctness, and the other any vestige of trust left in either our politicians or the mainstream media toadies spewing their lies at us.

  6. Who would dare to assassinate a Russian ambassador? Who would dare to assassinate the heir-apparent of Austria-Hungary? The Russians are bombing one of the assassin’s metropolitan areas, so the assassin attacked a state target.

  7. So. If a classic blunder is land war in Asia . . . can Turkey and Russia just fight in the European portions of each other to avoid it?