Ask most people about 2016 and, instead of giving you a nuanced selection of highlights and amusing anecdotes, they will be sick into a bucket. That is because, by pretty much anybody’s standards, 2016 has been, on the whole, horrible. If it wasn’t the Tories trying privatise air or bring back gollywogs, it was Donald Trump groping his way to the top, like an angry toddler in a wig.
Unless you are a paid up member of the KKK, mad person or recently fed dog, it’s very hard to justify 2016 as anything but an enormous and unexpected delivery of donkey poop arriving on your doorstep, first thing on Christmas morning.
Never fear gentle reader, for I have the solution- over the past 12 months I have been working on a cure for 2016. Steampunk medicine if you will, but without having to swallow any painful cogs along the way. We can make things marvellous again, if not for the world, for the people around us. And the Steampunk community, comprised of people who spend their spend time inventing a better world, are well placed to deliver the goods…
- Do good deeds
You can’t change the whole world. I mean, look at it, it’s a complete mess. In fact, don’t look at it. Turn off your news feeds*, stop getting any of your news from Facebook and head out into the big wide world. Knock on the door of a neighbour you haven’t met and ask if there’s anything they need, find causes to support and volunteer or give to them monthly, do a good deed for a stranger. Will this possibly mean giving flowers to an elderly neighbour, only to find out that she is a sweary racist who believe the foreign doctors are ‘out to get her’? If you live on my street, then yes, this is a very real possibility**.
But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try.
(*Remember newspapers? They are well worth revisiting, quickly, grab one before they vanish forever)
( **I also upset a Japanese girl in a comic shop who didn’t understand why I was trying to buy her comic books at the check-out as a random good deed for a stranger, and wasn’t trying to either chat her up or harass her. As she started to well up with tears of confusion, I backed out of the comic shop, a confusion of red faced, over-loud apologies and I knocked over a whole display of Deadpool comics. It wasn’t a great moment for either of us to be honest. But I remain assured that you are a more competent human being than I.)
- Write Fan mail
It’s not enough to stop feeding the trolls, we have to be more proactive these days. This does not mean you should angrily shout on social media at anyone who has a different opinion than you. ‘YOUR OPINION SUCKS AND I HOPE YOU DIE IN FIRE’ has rarely changed anyone’s mind. Instead, write fan mail. Write it every day; write to people you like, people you respect, artists, musicians, steampunk rappers with an endless need for internet based affirmation, politicians, bloggers, family. Do this every day* and it will make the internet a better place.
(*not always to the same person. That’s a very different thing and can lead to all sorts of legal trouble.)
- Complain in private
People can be awful, life can be horrible. And when you are tired, upset, angry or in my case, drunk- it’s all too easy to fire off a depressing, angry or attacking post about something or someone. STOP DOING THAT. Facebook particularly isn’t designed for negative emotions. It’s designed to show off pictures of your dinner/ children/ amusingly shaved cat and talking rubbish. It’s too clumsy a tool for articulating balanced arguments and dealing with complex emotions. Yes, it can be handy to find solace in pals when things go wrong- but do you really want to share that stuff with EVERYONE IN THE WORLD? Complain privately, seek help from specific friends, bitch with close friends only and never, ever argue about politics online*. It will make you sad.
(*and because facebook is so terrible at dealing with these complexities, remember it is not a reflection of real life- most of the news has been designed by algorithm to appease your sensibilities and is wildly inaccurate. Meanwhile, the posts that show how wonderful your friends lives are only tell part of the story- I had a stomach bug the other week and am late to file an enormous pile of receipts. I didn’t post much about that. I posted about another time when I went on a roller coaster and ate a burger named after me. Nobody’s lives are as good as they appear on social media, it’s a fact worth remembering)
- Get out of your comfort zone
As we sit on the internet in our little bubbles, we have to be careful our genuine experiences don’t narrow. Despite the crumbling of Western civilisation as we know it, there’s still some pretty cool stuff out there. Head out to music you’ve never heard of, random storytelling or poetry nights, try and open mic, go and see some comedy, read more fairy tales, hang out with some different people. It won’t always work, but when it does, it provides magical icing on the cake of life.*
(*This may be most poorly written metaphor I have ever written, but I am in Detroit airport and jet lagged, so you’ll either have to head over here and buy me a cup of strong tea or just deal with it)
- Recognize the awesome
Steampunks are very amazing. If you are a regular attendee or a newbie, you quickly find yourself surrounded by fantastic folk in fine finery*. As well as making sure you feel good in how you look and, if it’s your bag, the kind of character you want to be- make sure you pay compliments to your fellow Steampunks. They may be as nervous as you or brimming with the confidence that comes with pulling off a top hat of that magnitude- but everyone likes to feel nice and by doing so you will not only make our community a fresher and more welcoming place to be, but you might end up having an awesome chat with a brand new friend. Also, they might buy you a drink which is even better.
*(Damn you jet lag, the enemy of good writing)
- Keep escaping
Just keep doing it- volunteer, help out, organise, attend- escape. It’s* scientifically proven that adults who play are happier, nicer people and Steampunk is such a good excuse to do just that. Ignore the naysayers and grumblemonkeys who wiffle on about cultural appropriation or bore the nipples off us all with rules about what it should or shouldn’t be. We invented Steampunk and if you’re doing it, it’s whatever you say it is. Keep it surreal and keep escaping, it will make it easier to remake the world upon your return.
We’ll see you in 2017, hopefully not with tips on how to survive in radiation heavy areas, cook family pets safely or survive the zombie apocalypse- but at the moment, I’m not ruling anything out.
Stay safe, be nice and keep it weird.
— Professor Elemental