Essays and discussions
Review of 2004
2004 has been a year of change and a year of constancy. It was the year when the Monkey was re-elected to be president of the most powerful country in the world; it was a year that saw many deaths, some more mourned more than others; it was a year that saw another blow for parliamentary democracy in the UK and the outside chance of an agreement in the political standoff in Northern Ireland.
The war in Iraq is over, although you wouldn’t necessarily think that from the ongoing death toll, which is now well over a thousand American soldiers and is uncounted but is estimated to be many times more than that for Iraqi civilians. There are many hoping that the election, only weeks away at the time of writing, will bring some stability to the country, with a government that is elected by the people to represent the people. Somehow, with the appearance of more fundamentalist terrorists over the course of this year, I can’t see this happening, and 2005 looks to be another bleak year in Iraq.
Elsewhere, the US has been taking an aggressive stance on the world political stage, making a scene during various climate conferences, still refusing to acknowledge that there is a problem, despite the overwhelming evidence and agreement of nearly every other developed country. This absolute self-centred interest in not harming the short-term economy seems madness, and although there might be a sense of schadenfreude when the chickens finally come home to roost, it will be a planet-wide disaster, and we’ll be too busy trying to survive to think about the Americans. Climate isn’t the only area where the US has been throwing its weight around, it is also becoming more aggressive in other areas of world politics as well, which could be a good thing in that it implies that it’s not retreating into isolationism, but isolation seems an improvement to the negative way that American influence is pervading the world at the moment. One example that has recently come to my notice is the UN Convention of the Child. This was an agreement that was agreed by every sovereign country on the planet, bar two. The United States of America (and Somalia) disagrees that every child has a right to life, to grow up in peace outwith a state of poverty. What this says about that country is perhaps left unsaid.
In the UK, it’s been a bit of a mixed year. While the Home Office is still forcing through the Identity Cards Bill (albeit without David Blunkett) and have almost surreptitiously passed a Civil Contingencies Act which gives the Prime Minister and Home Secretary powers unprecedented in peacetime (including the suspension of almost any Act of Parliament), the Courts have started putting checks on the executive, most recently declaring the unlimited detention without trial of ‘terrorist suspects’ illegal.
In Northern Ireland, there was a brief flurry of activity towards the end of the year, although this seems, ultimately, to have been yet another blind alley. The DUP demands for the decommissioning process to be verifiable through photographic evidence are not unreasonable, but the IRA still refuses to do so, claiming that would be ‘humiliating’. I’m not even going to start deconstructing that claim.
Finally, I turn and look at my own life in 2004. Here, certainly, changes abound. Firstly, this was the year when I bought my first home. I am now the proud owner of a small flat to the west of the West End of Glasgow. As a result of this, I’ve had to think about things like plumbing, DIY and other such things that have been bywords for fear to me in the past. It took time to get used to the idea of owning my own home (and I certainly couldn’t have done it without the financial help offered by my parents) but I do like the certainty and degree of comfort that it provides. Another, and perhaps more fundamental, change that 2004 has provided is that I’ve agreed to marriage. My family are a traditional Indian one, for whom arranged marriage is a tradition that goes back centuries, and despite a period of rebellion in my youth, after the matter was broached, I thought it over for several months, and eventually gave my assent this year for The Search to begin. It’s going to be a long process, probably taking several years, as the network of Aunties starts putting out feelers and trying to find The Right Girl for me. As for me, I sort of feel relieved now, after all the months (and years, if I’m being honest) of thinking and worrying about the subject. And it’s not as if I have to marry the first girl that I’m introduced to - it has to be a mutually agreed decision taken after careful consideration. Finally, and on a much lighter note, I’ve discovered the joys of role playing over the course of this year. I’ve started a bit of Dungeons and Dragons on a weekly basis, with a bunch of friends, and have found that I really enjoy it. Although not my first role playing game, it is the first that’s lasted more than about three sessions, and I’m hoping that it will continue well into the new year and beyond.
On the whole, despite the rather negative picture that I’ve painted above, I feel much more positive for 2005 than I have for several years now. There appears to be something in the air again. Maybe Britain’s presidency of the G8 and the EU will lead to the much-talked-about changes for Africa, and maybe the so-called international community can get its act together for the world. Time alone will tell.
— 29 December 2004