Sunday 21 December 2014

2014: déjà vu, jamais vu

Another year has passed and PfRC is taking a look back at some of the events, big and small, that can be filed under 2014.  What a banner one it was, marked in equal parts of remembrance and foreshadowing.  It was a year of reflection and despite what some pundits say as we are very much at risk in repeating ourselves, I think there was also quite a lot of soul-searching.  Let’s see what 2015 has in store for us.

January: Latvia joins the European Union. The Syrian civil war crosses into Lebanon, threatening to engulf the whole region. Pot shops open their doors to recreational smokers in Colorado and big business quickly descends to turn a profit. A tragic sinking occurs in the waters off Lampedusa with many migrants fleeing violence in northern Africa drowning. A Chinese rover on the Moon, dependent on solar power, survived another two-week long lunar night to explore some more. We sadly had to say good-bye to singer and freedom-fighter Pete Seeger.
February: The Olympic Winter Games are held in Sochi. Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych is deposed and in the aftermath of the Maidan Protests, civil unrest explodes. We had to bid adieu to actors Maximilian Schell, Shirley Temple, Sid Caesar and Philip Seymour Hoffman.

March: Russia annexes the Crimea at the urging of pro-Russian separatists. Sanctions against Russian interests ensue. The Chinese year of the Wood Horse begins. Researches discover the largest virus known in a sample of tundra ice. Territorial tensions mount in the Pacific, prompting America to focus its attention of Japan and China. A Malaysian airliner veers off course and disappears.

April: Former popes John Paul II and John XXIII are canonised. America throws its diminishing weight around in the international banking sector. Systemic discipline problems surface in the elite US Secret Service. Mickey Rooney, Bob Hoskins and writer Gabriel Garcia Márquez sadly departed.
May: The world at-large begins to recognise the severity of the Ebola outbreak in Africa. Poet Maya Angelou left us. Europe begins to solemnly commemorate the centennial of the start of the Great War. Former Soviet satellite states feel increasingly vulnerable as the situation in Ukraine deteriorates as Cold War tensions seem set to return. There is a military coup in Thailand.

June: A group of militants styled the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant aim to create a caliphate and begin attracting confederates from the West. A controversial and covert swap transpires between Guantanamo detainees in exchange for the release of an American prisoner-of-war. Germany wins the World Cup in football, and throws a minor hissy-fit over the National Security Agency’s spying practises when it is revealed that the chancellor’s phone was also tapped.

July: In response to kidnappings and killings, Israel launches a major offensive against the Gaza Strip, prompting the United Nations and others to condemn the reaction and declare solidarity with the Palestinians. The Drug-War in Mexico intensifies.  The former French president is taken into custody over corruption charges.
August: The US and cadets return to Iraq and Afghanistan, realising sadly that withdrawal was not only premature but that the whole venture misguided. Comedian Robin Williams exited along with Richard Attenborough and fellow-legend Bill Cosby was accused multiple times of rape, constituting one of the saddest episodes for fandom in recent times. Children from Central and South AmErica cross the deserts of Mexico to cross the border into the United States.

September: America embarks on a campaign against Islamist militants in Syria but every overture, violent or peaceful, are in the main ineffective. Personality—if ever one deserved to wear that mantel, Joan Rivers left us.

October: India and Pakistan exchange fire over Kashmir. Protests break out in Hong Kong over reforms that would remove some of the special treatment afforded the autonomous administrative district, on the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Tianmen Square massacre. Germany observes the twenty-fifth anniversary also of the collapse of the Berlin Wall.  

November: The successor to the Kyoto Protocols forecast dire and irreversible changes at human hands to the environment. The European Space Agency successfully piggy-backs on a comet. China surpasses the US as the world’s biggest economy ahead of schedule. The Duchess of Alba and author PD James also left before their time.

December: Massive protests erupt in several urban-centres in the United States over the slaying deaths of unarmed African American males at the hands of white officers while keeping to their beats of broken-window policing.
Inhuman terrorist act occur in Sydney, Yemen and Pakistan.  The Central Intelligence Agency hinted at some of its suspected depravity by releasing a fraction of the files that documented the agency’s efforts to keep us all safe in a post 9/11 world.
Summed up in a rhetorical parallel: did the US condone and carry out torture, yes—and whether or not it could be justified in the minds of these perverse and duplicitous individuals, did it produce any actionable intelligence, no.  The US moves to normalising relations with Cuba.