Coming to a close soon, 2016 was a rough year for a lot of people. The world of politics and world affairs was rocked with unpredictable phenomena and big, often worrying, changes. This post highlights 10 of the most absurd events that occurred this past year, in no particular order.
On June 23, the United Kingdom voted to leave the EU, sparking panic, fear, and several other “exit” movements in countries like Sweden, France, and Italy. Actually, the decision to leave wasn’t unanimous; Scotland and Nothern Ireland voted overwhelming to stay in EU, while England and Wales pulled through with the winning Leave vote. So now the Scots and Northern Irish are sort of trapped in a fate they never wanted or voted for. This gets worse when you consider how back 2014, Scotland voted to stay in the UK under the premise that the UK would stay in the EU. Oops. Overall, a major European player saying F-U to the EU was, and is, a pretty big deal for Europe.
2. US 2016 Election
The 2016 US presidential election was a fantastic shitshow from start to finish. From the allegations that Russia not only hacked the DNC but also the actual election in order to get “their guy” in office, to the Wikileaks attempts to destroy Clinton once for all, to a business man with no practical political experience winning the presidency, this election has already sent waves throughout the international community–and has kind of killed any last respect America’s allies had left for it.
3. “Choi-Gate” Scandal
What began as a supernatural scandal turned into a massive impeachment campaign. When it was found out that South Korean president Park Geun-hye was not only taking political advice from a freakin’ shaman and letting her in on classified government information, but that said shaman had close personal ties to Park and was using that influence to pull favors to fund her organization, South Koreans took to the streets with signs, costumes, and candles, calling for their president’s resignation. After 9+ straight weeks of determined protests, South Korea’s National Assembly finally came to a decision on December 9 to impeach Park.
4. The South China Sea
Things can get a little crazy when so many countries have claims to the same water, and one of them thinks it owns the whole ocean. Although the South China Sea is an important trade route (and oil reserve) for many countries, China has consistently stolen the drama spotlight here. In 2013 the Philippines made an appeal to the International Court of Arbitration in Hague, challenging China’s territorial claims and “nine-dash line.” In August 2016, they finally went to court–only, China didn’t show up, saying something about how it wasn’t going to recognize the ruling. In the end, the Philippines “won” and nothing really changed. Since then, tension has been heating up the waters of the SCS; from the building of military bases and the installment of weapons on contested islands, to the theft (and refusal to return) of an American drone, China is determined to prove that it gives no efs about the Hague ruling. And the United States, it seems, is determined to out-asshole China in the region by being generally aggressive itself. Peace and stability? Peace and stability!
5. K-pop to protest nuclear weapons
When the world responded to North Korea’s successful nuclear test in January with a mixed bag of jokes and fear, South Korea responded with pop music. As punishment for its bad behavior, the North got an earful of catchy music that was blasted from speakers at the North-South border. North Korea responded with its own broadcasts, but they were probably less fun to dance to. Apparently, the speakers from both sides of the border are regularly switched on to attack the other side with propaganda and sass. Maybe it’s just me, but there’s something very surreal about two countries considered to be “on the brink of war” dealing with the prospect of nuclear warfare with music.
6. Fake News Almost Sparks War
Journalists are saying that 2016 has ushered in the era of fake news (I’m just waiting for the “era of fake history” so I finally have a shot at fame). This has never been truer for Israel and Pakistan when poor Pakistan threatened nuclear war over a fake news article saying Israel threatened nuclear war. The article quoted a former Israeli Defense Minister saying that Israel would “destroy Pakistan if it sent troops into Syria.” In reality, there was no proof that the Defense Minister said that at all, but Pakistan’s Defense Minister responded on Twitter: ” Israel forgets Pakistan is a Nuclear State too.” Woo boy! The two countries eventually sorted things out.
7. Fidel Castro’s Death
The death of Cuban revolutionary Fidel Castro makes this list because of its unexpected arrival and its profound ideological impact worldwide. Hailed by many as a crushing dictator, he was hailed by many others as a hero of socialism and anti-imperialism. Countries from Canada to North Korea paid their respects, and even Cuba’s hated enemy, the US, had something to say, with both president Obama and president-elect Trump offering very different responses. Young communists everywhere, but mainly Reddit and Twitter, mourned.
8. A Chaotic Coup in Turkey
Coups in and of themselves are a little crazy. Government overthrowal has been the subject of games, movies, and music since forever. But in Turkey, it’s a reality. Since 1970, the Turkish military has overthrown the government three times. The latest attempt this past July was a failure, but it did leave at least 300 dead and many more scared for the future. The military seized TV stations, news agency, and dominated the city of Ankara with low-flying jets and tanks. The group in charge of the coup claimed it did so to take down president Erdogan and to “reinstall the constitutional order, democracy, human rights and freedoms, to ensure that the rule of law once again reigns in the country.” In contrast, the Turkish people did not welcome the coup and seemed to support, in large, their president.
9. The U.N. Hates Israel?
The Israel-Palestine issue is incredibly complicated and delicate and the United Nations has had trouble dealing with it in the past. But just this month, the UN passed a resolution condemning Israeli settlements. Basically, Israel got screwed and Palestine is happy. This resolution has already had interesting consequences worldview; Israel has suspended ties to some of the countries who backed the resolution, its relationship with long-time (and major) ally the US have been kind of maimed, and pro-Israel politicians across the globe are lashing out against the UN. While making an anti-Israel decision isn’t totally unprecedented in American politics, it is uncommon and pretty unexpected–especially when both Israel, the president-elect, and some Democrats strongly supported the possibility of Obama vetoing the resolution.
10. Trump Calls Taiwan
Although Trump is not even the president yet, he has already found a way to make China hate the US more than necessary. Brazenly ignoring 40+ years of foreign policy tradition, Trump accepted a call from the president of Taiwan and, thus, effectively shat on America’s commitment to neutrality regarding the One-China policy. While China put on a good poker face in response, experts think the country is probably seething on the inside. In his defense, Trump claims that the call was no big deal, that he didn’t act impulsively, and that it was all planned and calculated. Trump is thinking, “Why should China tell us what we can and can’t do?” Fair enough, but you’re not even president yet, man. Chill out.
In the comments section, let me know what you would add to the list.