Determining the biggest stories of any year is never a simple task. In truth, no one story can truly be the most influential since importance is localized and subject to cultural interpretation.
However, despite the fact that every orbit of the Earth around the Sun brings countless new events to our eyes, the repercussions of some stories are so intense in their area as to be particularly notable.
2017, for many, was a turbulent year full of shocking turns and bewildering discoveries. Politically, the world seems to have gone topsy-turvy, with world leaders getting into uncharacteristic personal spats and the phantom of international perfidy continually hovering nearby.
Technologically, 2017 has been just as interesting, bringing both a slew of new technologies and a number of paradigm-shifting tech security controversies.
The stories we would like to highlight in this piece, however, are of a different type. They are the stories of humans coming together to confront the wrongdoings of those with power and, as a result, changing the world for the better.
The London High-rise Fire
In what would prove to be one of the most horrifying fires in recent memory, Grenfell Tower on Latimer Road in West London caught aflame sometime in the early morning of June 14th. By the end of the harrowing blaze, 71 individuals had died, all at the hands of an electrical fire started by a refrigerator on the fourth floor of the building. The fire moved shockingly fast, and left families separated and confused.
In the following days, the survivors of the Grenfell Tower fire came together to make their voices heard: The police needed to investigate the fire more deeply. With support from hundreds of thousands of activists, concerned citizens, and troubled bystanders to the event, the London Police – and more — heard the cry of the many whose loved ones had fallen victim to the terrible fire.
Following inquiries and investigation into the fire, it was found that the devastating extent of the blaze was the result of years of neglect, code violations, and even ignored reports from residents. The cladding of the building had actually been banned for use on high-rises for some time.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan spoke out on the tragedy, stating that the fire was a “preventable accident” which had been made possible due to “years of neglect” at the hands of the local council and more. Following Mayor Khan’s statements, the rightful outrage of the families of the victims was bolstered enough to reach the ears of the Prime Minister, Theresa May.
With dozens of families left homeless, Prime Minister Theresa May made arrangements to issue payments of up to £5000 to those who were displaced by the fire so that they could find themselves new places to live and reestablish their lives.
Whether this amount will be enough for most families to relocate and recover safely is hard to predict, though the possibility of court settlements and local aid are likely to contribute to these families’ abilities to get back on their feet after such a terrible loss.
The Grenfell Tower Fire shook not only London but Europe and the United States as well. The horrific details motivated communities to look to the areas of infrastructural weakness in their own communities, some of which are recognised landmarks of their respective communities.
As the fallout of the terrible event continues to resolve, many community groups are calling for increased rigor from government officials overseeing the maintenance, engineering, and regulation of large residential buildings and public infrastructure alike.
The Grenfell Tower Fire represents one of the most terrifying and troubling events of 2017, but the community response proved that the people of London are not ready to allow wrongdoing to go unchecked. Between the community outcry and the global push for reform, the Grenfell Tower Fire may prove to be one of the most influential tragedies on safety policy of the last decade at least.
#MeToo and the Hollywood Sexual Abuse Scandal
Activists and even some actors and actresses have, for years, claimed that sexual abuse and misconduct was rampant in the Hollywood film industry, with major industry movers being accused, often without direct identification, as the perpetrators of such violence.
Reports of sexual abuse often alleged that speaking out or “rocking the boat” was discouraged even among those who were not perpetrators of the violence, some going so far as to attempt to silence those claiming to be the victims of abuse in the name of preserving the good name of the industry, as was done to Corey Feldman.
2017, however, proved to be the year in which the victims of long-term abuse were able to finally attain a voice that would reach the rest of the world. The #MeToo hashtag surfaced on Twitter, reaching global trending status over numerous days, following a growing wave of sexual abuse allegations from credible, recognized actors and actresses with corroborated stories.
Those named included Harvey Weinstein, one of the most well-connected producers in Hollywood, Kevin Spacey, the star of Netflix’s critically acclaimed digitally-distributed series House of Cards, and Adam Venit, one of Hollywood’s leading talent agents. Following the allegations, many of the victims made motions to file lawsuits against their abusers.
The individuals who chose to make a stand and come forward came to be known as the “Silence Breakers” following being named, collectively, as Person of the Year by TIME magazine and motivated the creation of the #MeToo hashtag.
The hashtag became a public forum wherein courageous individuals from all stripes of life could share their personal experiences of sexual assault in the workplace and beyond. Included in the group of Silence Breakers was accomplished actress Ashley Judd, music producer and singer-songwriter Taylor Swift, television acting veteran Rose McGowan, and prolific comedian and actor Terry Crews.
The Silence Breakers and the #MeToo movement have led to a notable shakeup of an industry many view as far too protective of veterans who utilise their positions of power wrongfully. Harvey Weinstein has now had over 84 accusers come forward and has been revealed to have paid off some accusers to keep quiet, with quiet threats waiting under the bribes.
House of Cards was canceled outright, though Netflix officials have discussed bringing the show back without Kevin Spacey.
The #MeToo movement has carried on through the end of 2017 and now has been joined by the “Time’s Up” movement, which involved actors and actresses wearing all-black to the Golden Globes in order to make a statement against sexual abuse in the entertainment industries.
Repercussions to Be Felt for Years
Each of the two events mentioned above dominated headlines worldwide in 2017, regardless of their seemingly limited geographic reach. While the Grenfell Tower Fire occurred in a neighbourhood of London, its effects have had worldwide reach. Likewise, the Hollywood Sexual Abuse Scandal, whose industries are centred in only a few cities, has social and economic impacts that are felt around the globe.
What is most fascinating about these stories, though, is the way in which people from all walks of life came together to combat problems that have plagued communities for years, sometimes decades. That fact, if nothing else out of these tragedies that shook the world, can be a beacon of hope for the coming year.