Vox pop says 2016 was really bad.
“Vox pop” is a British phrase based on a Latin phrase that means “things people on the street (who aren’t me) are saying.”
Lots of people didn’t get their way in 2016, and they used the handheld supercomputers most of them obtain for free (with the purchase of a cheap monthly service plan) to express their anger through the free online services where they spend most of their lives these days.
Sometimes, they did this while consuming excess calories during one of their four or five daily meals, which they often took time to photograph.
Hey! They had to do something to counter the anxiety. 2016 was an annus horriblis, after all.
“Annus horriblis” is a British variation on a Latin phrase. It was coined by Queen Elizabeth II in 1992, when both her sons got divorced and one of her castles burned. It was a play on words in a poem written in 1666. The poem commemorated a year of wonders: annus mirabilis. The author of that poem didn’t seem to care that the Plague of 1665 was still killing thousands in London. It was a pretty good year — for him.
And yes, through the entire year of 1992, the Queen remained a tremendously wealthy landowner — as she remains today. She’s a European monarch, you know.
Still, there was a great deal of heartbreak in 2016. For example, the voice of our generation took his final bow. Yes, Abe Vigoda breathes — or whatever it was he did — no more. Abe, you stood for a vast army of henpecked and barely-alive straphangers who commuted from Flushing every day and mournfully looked up after beholding scuffs and dog shit on their wing-tips. They just had those cleaned, goddamit. Come back, Abe. The world’s just not the same without you and your Homberg.
Besides, we thought you died in 1981. Then in 1985. And again in 1993. How sad it will be to now have our suspicions confirmed when we Google your name. We’re not good at good-byes!
2016 was the year everyone decided to fight someone else’s battle for them. Lots of energy went into being offended on behalf of people who often responded by saying “Uhhh. . . I mean, thanks and all. . . but . . . ” Some of them didn’t follow the script. But they will — the thankless curs. They will feel oppressed, and there’s nothing the Russians will be able to do about it.
Then, the American poor decided to take a stand for oppressed millionaires. They won out, in the end. The millionaires and billionaires will be protected! After the election, the masses lined up at federal offices to return anything they’d received as a result of the Rural Electrification Administration, the SSI program, crop subsidies, and federal highway funds for highways in states no one wants to visit. This was ’cause it ain’t right to take other people’s hard-earned money.
Actually, they didn’t do this. No one did this.
Meanwhile, in the UK, voters decided they didn’t like traveling 18 miles without applying for a tourist visa. They also decided they’d rather pay enormous subsidies to companies directly, rather than using the EU as their go-between. I can’t really blame them on that last count.
I guess some science stuff happened in 2016. It was hard to tell. We’re at the point where any scientific or technological advance will be used for improved marketing, and not a whole lot more. It’s tedious to hear of yet another terrific advance in man’s understanding of the universe that will inevitably be used to sell things.
Can’t we just die in relative ignorance and dignity before advertising covers the last square millimeter of human life?
But that’s obviously not a question for science to answer. Why we live, when to die, why to confront death: those are beyond the limits of scientific inquiry.
In all, 2016 could be summed up in a Latin phrase used by the British, and adapted by their poets: Memento Mori. The whole year was a reminder of our limits, and our frailty.
In Ancient Rome, when a general would return from a triumphant battle, a slave would follow him during the parade whispering into his ear “Respice post te. Hominem te memento.” He needed to be reminded he was only a man, and would still die. Never mind the parade. You’re gonna die. Memento Mori.
We heard this reminder loud and clear in 2016, and we hated it. We absolutely hate to consider our own humanity, and our own limitations, and the limitations of humans in general. We hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate it.
The entire year was a reminder that we are small. We don’t get our way. Things don’t need to make sense to us. Everything changes, and everyone dies.
And we need to be ok with that. We’re only human, after all.