We’re well into the second month of the new year and by now I’m sure you’ve closed the book on 2015 and concluded that it was either a good year, a lousy year or just a so-so one. But at the beginning of every year I like to take pause and reflect on the year that was – to make an assessment of all the events, people and places that left a lingering impression or made an impact on me. It’s a kind of ‘year in review’ process whereby I try to describe the ‘nature’, if you will, of the year to myself (or the people who invariably ask during new year festivities). And what characterises a year for me are the themes that can be identified from some of the recurring events, lessons and challenges that the year presented or unfolded.
In summing up the ‘Year of the Sheep’ I asked myself, “What was fate or the Universe trying to tell me this year? What were some of the ‘messages’ of 2015?”
Allow me to share my post-mortem report with you.
Was 2015 A Year Of Change For The Sake Of Change?
What Price, Change?
I’ve always taken issue with wastage – and the trouble with change for change’s sake is that often a lot of really valuable stuff needlessly goes to waste – and is often lost for good. In 2015 I watched in appalled disbelief, as two successful brands I had spent many years developing experienced a disastrous dip in popularity, commerciality and revenue – one due to apathy, the other to the implementation of unsustainable and half-baked ideas, the wholesale rejection of the formula, strategy and brand positioning that made it successful to begin with and a good old case of vanity run amuck. When I saw the direction the brands’ executives were taking them in I sounded off a series of urgent warnings about what I knew the outcome would be – but they were dismissed offhand (which in itself is very telling about the kind of egos and self-important personalities involved in these decision making processes).
And when the bottom eventually did fall out as I had predicted I couldn’t even gloat about being right.
There was absolutely no personal satisfaction to be had in saying, “I told you so!”
Irreversible damage had already been done that now couldn’t just be repaired or ‘fixed’ – because what was once buoyant and robust was suddenly in free fall. Frustratingly, what a lot of slaves to corporate ideology fail to understand about brand equity is the emotional and psychological relationship people have with a product and how they have a tendency to feel unsettled and even betrayed when a beloved brand suddenly seems unrecognisable to them. Even after you go, “Whoops, guess we shouldn’t have done that!” it’s already too late – because you’ve effectively relieved them of their loyalty to the brand and given them permission to break-up with it. Having to woo them and win back their trust, over and above attracting new followers or customers, is a mammoth undertaking. And whatever time, goodwill, progress and revenue you forfeited as a result of your miscalculation, you will simply never get any of it back.
This year has already seen steps being taken to try and manage the decline of both enterprises and maybe even reverse the damage done to them, but I’m not prepared to cheerfully overlook the overall shortsightedness and wanton gambling away of years of hard work. Instead I fully intend to sit back (somewhat uncharacteristically) and watch as the charlatans and dilettantes scramble around trying to put Humpty Dumpty back together again, while continuing to pretend that they weren’t the ones who knowingly pushed him off the wall in the first place.
Similarly and more recently, the serious economic repercussions of our president’s ill-advised sacking of two finance ministers and reappointment of a third – driving investor confidence and this country’s morale, reputation and currency to a post-apartheid record low that it might not fully recover from is yet another example of how 2015 seems to have been a year of arrogance and foolhardiness.
The result of change that actually needs to happen, the bloody civil war in Syria and the resultant refugee ripple effect that dominated the 2015 information cycle are further illustrations of the ramifications of wanton destruction and autocracy. Like all wars, you know it’s got to end eventually, but at what cost? Even in the unlikely event of a peaceful resolution to the Syrian crisis, the emotional toll and psychological trauma endured by the children and families who witnessed the violence and devastation will haunt and impact generations to come.
Stupid Is The New Smart!
I can’t be overcritical of slow-witted people for being short-changed in the grey matter department, because they didn’t have a choice in the matter, but it’s the smart people who do and say stupid things that drive me to distraction – and in 2015 I could have sworn I noticed a rise in what I refer to as the ‘stupid smart person’ phenomenon.
I’m referring to the intelligent, so called ‘educated’ person who regurgitates other people’s opinions or arrives at a judgement or verdict about a complex issue with just some of the facts – and then dines out on his or her facile, distorted world view for days afterwards; or folks who will happily overlook the glaring hypocrisy of a politician who claims to be a champion of say, women’s rights, but makes sexist jokes and refuses to appoint any women to office. In 2015 I encountered an unprecedented number of people who were so fanatical in their moral or political position and viewpoint that even when provided with solid irrefutable evidence that more than suggested otherwise, they rejected it with a vengeance. Or how about those apparently smart, savvy people who believe absolutely everything they read on social media or the internet, including things that are factually incorrect, unproven or deliberately biased and inflammatory – and then share it to their feed, usually with either outrage or mawkish sentimentality – without having the good sense to check the facts first.
Half the time, the supposedly enlightened people I encounter on the street or (unfortunately) within my own extended social orbit appear to be so self-involved that they’re only interested in what they want to hear and see – making them dangerously lemming-like and uninformed about a lot of the really important issues affecting the world today. If an individual, when presented with an observable reality or proven facts, prefers instead to believe something else because it doesn’t suit them, then they don’t get to call themselves smart or sit at the grown-ups table. Period.
I’ve Seen This Movie And All Its Horrible Sequels!
Speaking of stupid, 2015 seemed also to be characterised by retrogressive attitudes and thinking and a disturbing culture of repudiating what’s factual and empirical in order to suit a narrative, push an agenda or further special interests. From politicians playing revisionist history on TV to a rise in hack journalism that panders to those who are divorced from reality, 2015 had me wondering “Where are all the sane people? Seriously!?”
I love being my age, but one of the shittiest things about being over 40 is that you’re invariably forced to watch history repeat itself over and over again because you’ve been around long enough to witness yet another new generation – who’ve ‘forgotten’ or are ignorant about what came before – flirt with the same follies of the generations prior.
I’m willing to overlook the extravaganza of recycled, rehashed fashion and trends that are, somewhat insultingly, lauded or hustled as ground-breaking and original or the latest hit songs that I’m allegedly not supposed to ‘get’ because of my age (like it’s that difficult) that are uncannily similar in theme and sound to the songs I grew up listening to (only with oodles more sex, booze, misogyny, narcissism and crass consumerism) – but when our society starts reopening long settled debates about say, whether being gay is a choice or if the earth is really flat – and the media cashes in on this lunacy – then “strange days” have indeed found us!
Every time I watch the news a voice in my head keeps repeating, “I’ve seen this movie and all its horrible sequels! Can we please evolve already?”
Oh, and by news I don’t mean the skewed, disingenuous kind that corporate media outlets like CNN disseminate. If you want to have a truly informed world view you might want to research and access the online and “non-mainstream media” platforms that aren’t bought and paid for by corporates and elites.
Much Ado About Selfies, Little Ado About Self
Of course, the selfie phenomenon predates 2015 but it seemed to me to be the year when even serious politicians and other quintessentially starchy types – with no shortage of photographers or staffers on hand to capture the moment – got in on the #usie action. Selfies and Usies are fun and harmless (for the most part) – but every time I see some young person on the street or at an event primping, pouting and posing for selfie after selfie after selfie until they get the ‘perfect’ one, I have to ask myself, “Do they dedicate even an ounce of that energy and painstaking effort to an understanding of the ‘self’?” Taking a selfie seems to me to be analogous to holding a mirror up to ourselves, so you’d think that in pondering our own reflection we might take the opportunity for some self-reflection. Okay, probably not going to happen in most instances but wouldn’t it be awesome though?
I don’t mean to judge, but perhaps if more people whose social media posts consist almost entirely of daily selfies, particularly melancholic or over-sexualised ones, spent more time contemplating the person in those pics they may come to understand why their feed seems less like a celebration of self and more like a cry for help.
Oh dear, this all sounds like an angry rant doesn’t it? I’ll wrap this up, lest I leave you with the impression that 2015 wasn’t a particularly good year for me.
Setbacks and annoyances notwithstanding, it was a wonderful year in all other respects – but as I’ve mentioned in a previous post, I tend to be a little bashful about trumpeting my own contentment and success (such as it is) because I don’t believe it adds any real value to the conversation, nor does it further the aim of this blog – but if you’d like to experience the lighter side of my year in 2015 you’re welcome to visit my Instagram feed.
What were some of the themes of 2o15 for you? I know that most of my followers have a somewhat passive, voyeuristic relationship with this blog but I would really welcome your observations and experiences, so please feel free to comment below.
Here’s to a great 2016!