Essays and discussions

Review of 2006

Internationally, 2006 has been a depressing year, with civil war in Iraq, worsening violence in Afghanistan, North Korea test-exploding a nuclear bomb and Iran not far behind. And that’s not even thinking about the lack of progress on environmental issues.

Iraq remains a complete mess for the West with no obvious route out of the country. Even the death of Saddam Hussein, coming right at the end of the year, holds little hope for an end to insurgency. One of the ways of seeing into the country outside mainstream media is through the Internet. I am an occasional reader of the excellent Baghdad Burning blog (serialised on Radio 4 in November) which tells of life in that city from the perspective of someone living there. This provides a depressing insight that counteracts the consistently upbeat assessments that British politicians keep spouting when challenged about Iraq.

A nuclear-enabled North Korea was one of the more worrying developments of 2006, although on a purely selfish level, without ICBMs the missiles remain a local threat only. However, the political repercussions of this (or rather the lack thereof) are enormous. The international community failed to take any action against North Korea, giving other countries, including Iran, an implicit green light to continue their development, while at the same time disappointing countries committed to the international non-proliferation treaty. It seems that that treaty is now likely to crumble, leaving the world a more dangerous place.

A good news story from this year was the agreement on where to site ITER, the prototype nuclear fusion reactor. I see fusion as one of the major energy sources of the twenty-first century, and this international project will do a lot to develop the theory into a working technology to deliver clean energy.

In 2006 the British Government was still behaving like an arrogant Victorian nanny doing ‘what’s best’ for us but the façade seems to be crumbling, much like John Major’s government did in the mid nineties. They are stumbling from internal crisis to scandal without any sort of apparent direction, including the cash-for-peerages scandal that has led to the almost unprecedented interview of a serving Prime Minister by the police. The desire to look tough and the so-called “respect agenda’ are still spewing ill-considered legislation on to the statue book that will almost certainly come back and bite them on the behind before long.

At almost the end of 2006, the Sinn Fein executive have taken the radical step of calling a special conference of the party to discuss the question of whether or not they should sign up to support the Police Service of Northern Ireland, something that they have always refused to do in the past, seeing it as an instrument of suppression by the state. This is great news that has been welcomed all round, even by the hard-line DUP. I’m only sorry that Mo Mowlam couldn’t be here to see it. If the party agrees, then it could result in the restoration of the Stormont government, several years after direct rule was re-imposed from Westminster.

Finally, turning to my own life in 2006, the marriage search has continued after the farce at the start of the year. I’ve met two girls in person and communicated with several through the myriad of electronic telecommunications devices that we have at our disposal, but all have come up negative to date. Most of them didn’t really get the emotional investment to cause anything more than a shrug of the shoulders (the lass who, upon being texted by me asked my height and summarily dismissed me on that basis caused particular merriment). There were one or two that I would have liked to go further with, but, alas, it was not to be. Still, it’s only been a year, and I know people that have taken several to find a partner.

This time last year, I indicated that my department at work was in flux and that it would take about six months to sort out. My estimate was, of course, woefully optimistic. Our future is still uncertain a year on, and our potential future direction has changed several times. A major meeting at the end of January between senior managers should give us better direction. But one thing seems to be clear, if we are retained as a single team, then I am going to be central to that team, since it will be up to me to develop the software systems envisaged. It’s nice to feel indispensable.

— 30 December 2006

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