Essays and discussions

Review of 2012

After the tumultuous year we had in 2011, this year has been a bit quieter, which is great news for all concerned. On the world stage the continuing Big Events remain the world financial situation, particularly in Europe, and the events unfolding in the Middle East, specifically Syria. I don't think anyone can now deny that Syria has descended into civil war, with the rest of the world showing no inclination to intervene. The war is getting more and more bitter and whichever way it ends, I suspect that its effects will linger in the region and beyond. The Syrian regime is supported by Iran and if its falls (or looks like it's going to), I don't know if Iran will try and intervene directly, and what sort of response this will provoke from the West, and in particular, some of the more trigger-happy parts of the US Congress.

I was pleased to see Barack Obama returned to the White House in the US presidential election this year, not so much because I have any real faith in his policies or promises, but because the alternative was too horrible to contemplate. It still fascinates me just how divided American politics is, and how so many people will vote for a party I see as so repulsive in its attitudes towards women, the non-mega-rich and the rest of the world. Our Tories are liberal hippies compared to some of these people.

The EU also continues to tumble from crisis to crisis with loans and riots seemingly in equal measure. Greece continues on the edge and I can't help but wonder if 2013 will be the year that it finally puts itself out of our misery and exits the Euro. While the UK doesn't seem to be in such dire straits as Greece, the economic news is still relentlessly grim. Although unemployment hasn't reached the heights of previous recessions, this has been at the cost of stagnant or reduced wages and an ongoing climate of fear that your job could go any time soon. While there's an argument to be had about whether ongoing growth is desirable, or even possible, in a world with fixed resources, I suspect people are more worried about their standard of living (also, I live in hope that external input of resources such as Planetary Resources can help break the zero-sum nature of the world economy, as well as mark the beginning of a resurgence in interest in space).

While I had hoped that this might be the year that popular movements such as Occupy take off, that particular movement seems to have fizzled out. However, other ideas have taken off, leveraging people power and the internet, sites such as All Out, Avaaz and their ilk are bringing people together for individual causes and successfully putting pressure on multinationals and governments alike.

In the UK this year, the media have been navel-gazing like never before thanks to the Leveson Inquiry, the final report of which was released towards the end of the year. While I'm very wary of state interference in the freedom of the press, the near-complete lawlessness that exists at the moment also feels wrong, with no real recourse given to people who are wrongfully accused for crimes that didn't commit or who have their name wrongfully besmirched. A framework of regulation hasn't notably dampened the investigative journalism of the broadcast media, and I'm coming around to the idea that a similar framework should be applied to the print media. Of there are many questions to consider, not least what individuals and organisations should be covered by such a regulator. Should blogs and Twitter accounts be covered? Only those with a certain following? It could start to approach the realm of the absurd.

The Olympics have also come and gone, without any of the predicted crises or terrorist attacks (was stationing missiles on rooftops really anything other than a media stunt?). The whole event mostly passed me by quite happily (would it be churlish to suggest that there was more than a whiff of bread and circuses about the whole affair?), although I must say that the opening ceremony was pretty cool and a very British solution to how to top the Beijing ceremony for spectacle (i.e. don't even try, do something entirely different).

In the realms of science, something which may or may not be the Higgs boson has been detected by the LHC at Cern and the Curiosity rover performed a marvel of science and engineering with its landing on Mars, using a skyhook to gently reach the surface in a feat that truly shows the ingenuity of the Human race.

Thankfully, this has been a much quieter year than the last for me personally. At work, a colleague's absence to maternity leave has given me opportunities that I might not have otherwise had and has meant a hard, but fun, year at work. Thankfully, the pressure to get married has receded, possibly helped by the birth of my parents' first grandchild. Following her marriage last year, my sister is now the proud mother of a little girl and I'm a rather bemused uncle (I've said that I'll be happy to babysit once the bairn is old enough to go to the toilet on her own and watch Doctor Who with me – I'm not really a 'children person'). I also attended two SF cons this year, both of which were a blast and am looking forward to two more in 2014. It was good to meet new people and renew acquaintances amongst people that I know are my kind of people.

So my family is happy and settled, my three RPG campaigns are proving as fun as ever and a few of my closer friends have moved back to Glasgow. 2012 hasn't been a bad year at all.

— 31 December 2012

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