Essays and discussions
Review of 2001
The year 2001 has, in my mind – and I'm sure in the minds of so many other people, been dominated by one event, the terrorist attacks of 11th September. But even before this event, I felt that this year has been one of the most depressing that I can remember. So much seemed to be going wrong, from the collapse of the Middle East peace process to our own troubles in Northern Ireland. It has been a dire beginning to a new millennium.
11th September will be synonymous for many years to come with pain, death and destruction. It was the date that shook America to its very roots. It wasn't really until the following day that it began to sink in for me the magnitude of what had happened. I got very little work done that day.
In the days and weeks following 11th September I watched in growing horror as America acted on its first impulse – that of revenge. I can't know what it was like to be there, to lose somebody in this tragedy, but the desire to find somebody to blame and then attack them has seemed wrong to me right from the start. I'm not saying that the perpetrators of the crime should be left alone, but the actions of the United States and its 'allies' (i.e. the UK) in attacking Afghanistan seem like nation building at its most blatant. I'm not saying that I agree with the religious or political views of the Taliban – I am, after all, a liberal agnostic – but there were other, more subtle, ways of replacing the regime and finding Osama Bin Laden than all-out war. Does the end justify the means? I don't think so.
They say that every cloud has a silver lining, well let's hope the events of 11th September will turn the eye of the world to the causes of terrorism and fundamentalism. These are, for the most part, poverty and displacement – refugee camps are the obvious feeding ground for terrorist recruitment. Let's hope that we will see poverty issues in the third world and elsewhere being tackled and more projects like Jubilee 2000 which aimed, with some success, for the nullification of third world debt. After all, it is the discontent of the hungry and the poor against the well-fed and the rich that breeds the kind of resentment that makes it easy for terrorists to recruit.
Dragging my mind away from that particular event, you only have to look a short distance around for more evidence of the state of the world. The continuing Intifada in the Occupied Territories of Israel is one of the most visible of these. It's difficult to sympathise with either party in this conflict. On the one hand, Israel has to defend itself from the continuing attacks and on the other, the Palestinians are an oppressed people who are trying to find a voice for themselves. However, the continued murders by suicide bombers sickens me to my stomach. It's hard to sympathise with someone willing not only kill themselves but others in the name of some abstract 'cause'. Religious nuts have always scared me. And Israel always seems to overreact to any attempt at protest.
I'm not the first person to point out the irony in the most oppressed people in history now oppressing a minority in their turn, nor, I'm sure, will I be the last.
It seems that as the year ends, India and Pakistan are also, once more, on the brink of war. This is made all the more serious since both countries are now nuclear nations. I'm not exactly George Dubya's number one fan, but I think that only he has the political clout to make these two idiot nations if not see reason, then at least prevent them from blowing each other up.
In Northern Ireland, things have been quiet for several months at least. The last crisis – the route taken by children to school in North Belfast – seems to have passed. Indeed, if it had not been so serious, it would have been deadly funny. Northern Irish politicians do disgust me sometimes. They are so often childish to an incredible degree.
Another disaster, this time mainly restricted to the UK, was the outbreak of foot and mouth disease that paralysed the country in the spring and summer. This caused a lot of hardship, not just to farmers, but to many other industries, especially tourism, as people stayed away from Britain in droves. This disaster was another example of a problem that, to me, at least, seemed exacerbated by government incompetence and mismanagement. 2001 seems to have been a bad year all round, really, on the world stage.
Moving to my personal life, 2001 was the year when I finally graduated from the University of Glasgow, with an upper second class degree in Computing Science. Since then, I've got a job as the technical officer at the IT Education Unit of the uni where I worked for almost two years in some capacity or other during the course of my degree.
Over the past year I've continued to enjoy the large and varied cultural scene available to me in Glasgow; I've enjoyed and further cemented the friendships that I've built over the past four years and I've also become story editor of TBD, the fanzine associated with iO, the university science fiction society that I'm a member of.
For much of this article, I've concentrated on the negative aspects of 2001. However, let's try and finish on a more positive note. In the Middle East, the extremist group Hamas has declared that it will cease attacks on Israel. I don't know for how long, or under what conditions, but it's a start, much like the IRA ceasefire of the early 1990s.
As much as I dislike the methods used, the Taliban regime in Afghanistan has been toppled. Let's hope that the 'interim government' remains stable and that we may see peace in a country that has been at war for over twenty years.
Not long into the new year I will move out of the bedsit where I've been living since graduation and into a lovely flat in the West End of Glasgow with two beautiful flatmates, bringing to a close a rather unpleasant six month period of my life.
Now, as long as India and Pakistan don't blow each other up, I would say that there's a glimmer of hope for us all yet.
– 1 January 2002