On the face of it, 2017 hasn’t given us much cause to celebrate. Senseless war rages on in Syria and Yemen; hurricanes and floods ravaged entire communities; Donald Trump remains in power; and Brexit is still happening (though still not yet). We’re all exhausted just trying to keep up with the horrors of the news cycle in this new era we find ourselves in – let alone make sense of it.
So let’s stop for a moment to reflect on some of the good parts of 2017. This post isn’t a glib call for optimism in the face of despair – in fact, it’s imperative we cling on to our hope if we want to summon the strength to keep fighting for justice in 2018. So here is a list of just some of the moments, movements and silver linings that have allowed us to take heart this year. Add your own in the comments below!
1. Symbolic acts of resistance
Yes, a man who has boasted about sexual assault and defended white supremacists is preparing to mark one year in the White House. But as many have noted, the one good thing to come from this abomination is the way that it has stirred so many people – some for the first time – to engage with democracy in an active, dynamic way. There was the Women’s March, which saw millions of men and women across more than 20 countries taking to the streets to denounce Trump’s inauguration. There were the sports players taking a knee in a silent protest against police brutality -- and in defiance against their president who called them ‘sons of bitches’. Those images of solidarity were truly inspiring, and we will take them with us into the new year.
2. The travel ban defeat
It’s hard to choose the most offensive or cruel of the many executive orders signed by Trump this year. But the travel ban, issued just days after his inauguration back in January, seemed to represent the most knee-jerk, bigoted and wilfully myopic tendencies that characterised his campaign. The idea seemed totally disconnected from reality, but as we monitored the news, we wondered whether if a man like Trump could get elected, then maybe this sort of insanity could be possible. Turns out, it wasn’t, and the victory of those judges who blocked the order helped to restore at least some of our faith in the US judicial system. Though the battle still rages on, we are cheering for those judges who continue to fight to keep Trump’s worst excesses in check.
3. The rise of Corbynism and the defeat of Marine Le Pen
The political earthquake that swept across the pond and into Europe didn’t have as dire consequences as we might have predicted at the start of the year. In the UK, the rise of Jeremy Corbyn has taken everyone by surprise and brought about the highest youth turnout in 25 years at the 2017 general election. A generation of young people inspired by a radical new politics of sharing and equality? For us, that’s one silver lining in what was otherwise a total car crash of an election. Meanwhile, many of us breathed a collective sigh of relief when the French decided that their version of a political earthquake would be to elect a young centrist, not aligned to any traditional party, rather than their very own alt-right villain, Marine Le Pen.
This may be the year that discussions of the patriarchy finally went mainstream – if we can sustain the momentum. That it originated in Hollywood, an industry that has long held itself up as a bastion of liberal-mindedness, opened the movement up to wider conversations about the behaviour that keeps white men in positions of power in all walks of life. Prolific sexual predators were finally exposed and prosecuted, while some men began to get a glimpse for the first time of the extent of the issue. This isn’t something that will be solved quickly, but 2017 felt like an early step in the right direction.
5. Woke pop culture
This new feeling of ‘wokeness’ was apparent in the sorts of mainstream pop culture hits of 2017, too. Get Out, a horror movie about everyday racism, was widely voted the best film of the year and is tipped to win big at the Oscars. And the TV adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale made the oppression and objectification of women the topic of water-cooler conversations in offices around the world. The defining moment was when the creators of Moonlight literally had to snatch the Best Picture Oscar from the hands of the cast of La La Land after that particularly poignant mix-up.
6. Veganism went mainstream
Away from the worlds of politics and entertainment (which, let’s face it, are beginning to feel increasingly interchangeable), 2017 felt like a watershed moment for the plant-based movement, too. In the UK, a number of popular chain restaurants, including Wagamamas and Las Iguanas, introduced their own vegan menus, while Christmas this year was the first time vegans were able to buy an entirely plant-based spread from almost all of the major supermarkets. Successful films like What the Health, Okja and Carnage made their own cases for why a reduction in your meat and dairy intake might not be such a bad idea. In the US, meat and dairy corporations began investing in plant-based meat – a huge indication of the turning tide. This felt like the year that veganism stopped being treated as a niche interest, with more and more people coming round to the idea as simply common sense.
7. The movement for justice is global
After officially founding United Edge in 2017, we had the privilege of working with some truly inspiring individuals and organisations around the world, especially in Southeast Asia. In a region plagued by corruption, growing inequality and destruction of natural resources, we were humbled to meet so many people who are actively working to challenge broken systems and work for justice. It’s a reminder that although there is clearly a long way to go to achieve political, social and environmental justice, in every country around the world there are passionate, talented and dedicated people who are already bringing about the changes we need to see. We were blown away by 269 inspiring people working for change in nearly every corner of society who came together for 12 workshops. In Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, and Timor-Leste we learned, engaged and practiced the Justice Based Approach together. Across Asia, there is a bright hope of passionate people expanding the possibilities for marginalised groups, challenging broken political and economic systems and questioning inherited models of power and privilege. This was the year where we truly realized that a hopeful storm is brewing everywhere, not waiting but catalysing a new dawn.
So while 2017 may seem like the year the world went backwards, we’re choosing to notice the good news that doesn’t make it to the front-page newspaper. These 7 moments, movements and silver linings hold keys to unlock more doors for the world’s people and the planet in 2018. The fight for justice is continuing to expand, and we’re excited to be a part of it again for the coming year. There are a million ways for us all to join this movement and make that hope a reality. “Hope is a thing with feathers that perches in the soul,” wrote Emily Dickenson. Last year, we grew wings, so that we can take off in 2018.