Major world news stories of 2017 and how they are related
In some ways, #MeToo is the wealthy—though no less valid--response to a misogyny known all too well by underclass women. In Canada, Amnesty International estimates that Indigenous women are murdered at rates 4.5 higher than other Canadian women—likely an under-count, considering that these calculations ignore the scores of Indigenous women that remain missing and unaccounted for.
In much of the world over, women remain in desperate circumstances. United Nations figures suggest that 35% of women globally are the victims of physical and/or sexual violence.
To make matters worse, the playing field is absurdly uneven from the outset. Worldwide, on virtually every metric, women fare worse. Lower pay, more unpaid work, less access to education and health care, greater rates of malnourishment, etc. etc. etc.
From an international perspective, perhaps the high-profile nature of #MeToo allows the door to open on broader issues of gender inequality around the world, whether with respect to sexual violence, physical violence, or the violence of poverty and exclusion.
In so many cases, these factors are intimately entwined. If #MeToo maintains momentum in the coming year, these broader issues will likely rise to fore. In some instances, they already have.
5) The rise of the right
In the global crucible of discontent—as the haves increasingly outdistance the have-nots—xenophobia and racism, under the guise of populism, are flourishing.
Nowhere has this been more alarming than in Europe, where the brutality of fascism still remains a living—albeit fleeting—memory. From the UK to France to Austria to the Netherlands and beyond—even Germany has not been immune—the right-wing has made inroads previously unthinkable in the post-WW2 era.
And of course, there is Trump and his bizarre brand of rich-kid-cum-populist. Across the pond, his friend, Vladimir Putin, continues to confidently embrace the strongman image and its attending methods.
Elsewhere, similar trends are unfolding—a difference of degree, not kind. The 2010 Arab Spring has been either crushed—or in some cases supplanted, as in the case of Egypt’s el-Sisi—with autocracy.
Where resistance to the status quo remains, it is dominated—at least in the Muslim world—by a theocratic fascism in the form of ISIS, al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or al-Shabaab in East Africa, to name just a few of the main players.
Outside of the Middle East and Central Asia, leaders like the Philippine’s Rodrigo Duterte and India’s Narendra Modi, have no qualms with rallying mass support for policies that blatantly contravene basic human rights principles. And remember, both men are democratically-elected.
And that’s the point. Populism, nativism, and fascism cannot exist in a void. It is easy to cast a loathsome gaze on a leader one despises. It is a far more complex exercise to comprehend why seemingly ordinary, decent people support their platforms.
Linking it all together
Perhaps the most compelling aspect of these stories are the threads that weave them together. While on an overlying layer, Trump embodies them all, the underpinnings are plaited in deeper, and ultimately darker, more pernicious factors.
Climate change will only compound migration. Migration in turn will embolden extremism.
The issue of sexual assault—and the broader discussion around gender inequality is ultimately underpinned by power. Patriarchy maintains that space where women remain vulnerable. In different forms, this is as true in the dressing rooms of Hollywood moguls as it is in refugee camps on some liminal borderland or in the withering fields of the drought-ridden sub-Sahara.
At the end of the day, when you look at these stories, there are lines in the sand. Events like the election of Trump and the Brexit vote are broad, global statements. Regardless of whether one agrees or disagrees with what happened in such instances, we can make no mistake of their preternatural basis.
In an era of click-bait and instant gratification, a sea-change may be hard to apprehend. But there comes a time when people will hit the barricades. The mass migrations we are witnessing is one such revolution. So too is the rise of the right and populism everywhere, whether it is ISIS or Trump or Modi.
The question is whether the perfect storm of anger and hate on one hand, and apathy combined with willful ignorance on the other, will rise to the fore, or whether the winds blow us in a different direction entirely.
Right now, it’s pretty windy out there.