I was interested to read Tim Bousquet’s column in The Coast looking back on 2013. It was called The Year of Suck. Every year, in the last week or two of December, journalists, publications, radio and TV and digital media outlets all take a little time to reflect on the last 365 days.
Maybe there is some merit in gathering all the events of the past year together and vomiting them out in one fell swoop, but beyond filling pages or airspace while people take some time off, I don’t see much benefit in the practice.
The historical timeline rolls on. There isn’t a start or finish date. It’s obviously a continuum, but thinking we can hit some sort of mythical reset button on January first, putting one year behind us and hoping for a better year ahead is a quaint convention. Hope i suppose that by comparing one 12 month sequence against another will allow us to reboot or respawn in a new life to take on the next calendar year.
There was a lot to be depressed about in 2013, but there were also a lot of good things that happened. This is not meant to be a comprehensive, or particularly insightful review, but I thought taking a moment to look back upon some of the more positive moments of the past year might be helpful…especially when most of these year-enders leave you with the feeling that the world is spiraling into hell in the proverbial hand basket.
So what was the good news?
2013 brought us, in no specific order, terrorism and the War in North-West Pakistan, the Northern Mali conflict, the Nigerian Sharia conflict, the Iraqi insurgency, terrorism in Kenya, the M23 rebellion in Congo, South Sudan internal conflict, the Sudanese nomadic conflicts, the Syrian civil war, the Central African Republic conflict, the Korean crisis, the Golan Heights clashes, the Gaza–Israel conflict, Insurgency in the North Caucasus, the Kurdish–Turkish conflict, the Al-Qaeda insurgency in Yemen, the Mexican Drug War, the South Thailand insurgency and some unrest in China. I’m sure i’v missed a few but the good news is none of these conflicts, insurgencies or wars include the geographic positioning of Canada.
So outside of CSIS identifying and averting a potential Al-Qaeda attack, as residents of this planet we can consider ourselves among the blessed.
Yes there were plenty of things that irritated and vexed us as a population, but a $90,000 dollar scandal involving a corpulent Senator and a chief of staff really pales in comparison when the rest of the world is dealing with bombings, shootings, gang rapes, mass imprisonments, political murders, torture and a myriad of other seemingly sub-human activities.
It’s almost mind numbing to see the banality that leads newscasts and occupies our attention on the front pages.
So here, for those of us that would prefer to avert our eyes from all the ugliness of 2013 is a short list of some of the things which moved humanity slightly forward in the past year.
In January, to the surprise of absolutely nobody, the U.S. Senate approved a deal to avert general tax hikes and spending cuts otherwise known as the “fiscal cliff”, the imaginary precipice that we would all spill over, plunging the world into certain economic doom. By anybody’s measure, that’s a good thing.
Shortly thereafter Pakistani schoolgirl blogger Malala Yousafzai, who was shot in the face by the Taliban, was discharged from hospital. She has gone on to be a powerful figure representing the rights of women in the region. In spite of the corruption of the Afghan government and the uncertainty around the withdrawal of military forces in the region, she remains a flicker of hope that there might be generational change in that country.
In the same frame of reference, police in India charge five men with the murder of a 23-year-old woman who was gang-raped on a bus in Delhi. As hard as it may be to believe, in the context of India, those charges actually represent progress. Before we get too self-righteous, we should also point out the Rehteah Parsons case was not our proudest moment as Canadians. The good news here is meaningful steps were taken in 2013 to address institutionalized ambivalence toward violence against women. We all have work to do.
Also early in the year the NHL and the NHLPA reach an agreement that ended the 2012–13 lockout averting the cancellation of the 2012–13 NHL season. Now we can continue to fork out billions of dollars every year to millionaires and billionaires so they can offer us some sense of national pride. The good news is, the Leafs don’t suck quite as much as they did…when they weren’t playing.
Also in science, in spite of the forecasts that have much of the eastern seaboard of the North America devastated by super-storms and rising sea levels, we dodged another bullet by having the quietest hurricane season in the last 50 years. It won’t do much to help David Suzuki raise money, but for the rest of us, it’s good news.
The near-Earth asteroid 99942 Apophis missed the Earth. European astronomers noted it’s bigger than previously thought. The good news, NASA effectively ruled out a 2036 Earth impact for the same asteroid. Again, some disappointing for the apocalypse predictors, but for the rest of the world we can breathe a little easier for another half-century or so.
Lance Armstrong was outed for doping. Clearly a good thing. The only problem this created was what to do with all those little yellow bracelets.
The Carnival Triumph, one of humanity’s great monuments to excess consumption, had a fire in the engine room. The fire was automatically extinguished, but it results in a loss of power and propulsion. As cruise ship disasters go, not a big deal. Some folks were not able to lose any more money on the slots or watch bad stage renditions of Oklahoma! or Cabaret. There were no casualties or injuries to passengers or crew…we’ll call that a draw.
It was also announced in 2013 that Boston Dynamics upgraded the prototype United States Army robot BigDog with an arm strong enough to hurl cinderblocks. If this is the way modern warfare is going we can all count our blessings.
On the religion front, Giving his first audience at the Vatican, Pope Francis tells journalists he wants “a poor Church, for the poor”. René Brülhart, director of the Vatican’s Financial Intelligence Authority had no comment on how the church might become “poorer”. The Economist estimates that the church spent about $171,600,000,000 in 2010. They could probably afford to cut a billion or two to become more “austere”.
Scientists in California announced they now have a 3D human printer which can replicate human tissue. Among those who are rumoured to have purchased one of the devices is the Toronto Star. According to sources should anything happen to Rob Ford, the Star will be able to replicate him to have something to continue to write about. Also in 2013, Rob Ford deposed the Dos Equis guy as The World’s Most Interesting Man.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional and in violation of the Fifth Amendment to the US Constitution. Same-sex marriage also became legal in England and Wales after the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill received Royal Assent. Another sign the developed world is stumbling slowly but steadily out of the 1950’s.
Again this year, nobody dies as the result of fallout from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant…meanwhile 129,000 people died from smoking-related causes in Japan. Not a single environmental group takes up smoking as a cause. Incidentally, Taiwan Power Company’s Jinshan Nuclear Power Plant has been leaking radioactive water for three years. There is however a rumour that “radiation” is slowly making its way across the Pacific Ocean and will impact the coast of British Columbia. While not a single death has been attributed to Fukushima so far, 170,000 cases of skin cancer each year are linked to indoor tanning…we’re yet to see anybody dressed in a radiation suit outside Billy Bob’s Beach-o-Rama.
NASA also made a couple of interesting announcement through the year about goings on outside our solar system. Voyager 1 space probe left the solar system becoming the first man-made object to reach interstellar space. At the same time Scientists with NASA’s planet-hunting Kepler mission announced the discovery of 833 new planet candidates bringing the total number of candidate worlds to 3,538. Of the 104 planets in the habitable zone, 10 of them are about the size of Earth. The good news is scientists believe there may a strong case to be made there is intelligent life in the universe, having all but given up hope of finding any on this planet.
So here’s to a fabulous 2014. The good news just keeps on coming.