Essays and discussions

Review of 2019

I don't even know where to start with 2019. Brexit rolled on, crashing through deadline after deadline; Trump was as awful as ever; and the climate emergency got worse. So brexit did, indeed, continue to roll on and on. It claimed the scalp of Theresa May, when she couldn't deliver on her deal, and, for our sins, we got Boris Johnson foisted upon us. A prime minister elected by 0.13 percent of the population, who then proceeded to purge his party of moderates and lose almost all of his subsequent votes in the Commons. The man is a liar and a philanderer, without empathy or sympathy; and, it turns out, someone that England thinks is suited to wield the largest Conservative majority in the House of Commons in three decades. England, mind. Scotland very clearly voted in a very different way, although the lack of trust in the Labour Party was common across the UK, (in Scotland they "did a Tory", and lost all but one of their seats).

This was also a year in which I lost more faith in the political neutrality of the BBC, which is something that it pains me to say, as it's been my primary source of news forever. I still use it a lot, but the 2019 election in particular was one in which many issues, small, but constant, kept coming up. Not that anti-semitism is a small issue, quite the contrary, but I can't help wondering if it's as prevalent and major within the Labour party as the media, including the BBC, made out. Similar claims around race can, and have, been made about the Tories, but have got much less media coverage. This is something I'd expect from the press barons who own all the major newspapers, but not from the BBC. It's disappointing, but I now tend to be sceptical about any political coverage from that august organisation.

Across the Atlantic, Trump continued to Trump, but his activities finally led to some consequences, as the House of Representatives voted to impeach him. This is all very well, but I think that we all know that the Senate won't convict, not when it's so split along partisan lines, and a two thirds majority is required. I don't know enough about American politics to say how this will play out, but I fear that he'll still be president until 2024 now.

This year saw the great and the good (or, at least, senior political leaders) being given a stern talking to by a sixteen year old girl, as Greta Thunberg berated the UN General Assembly on the climate emergency. I'm hugely heartened to see the climate rise up the agenda, driven in no small part by the fantastic Thunberg; and Extinction Rebellion are doing a good job of keeping it there. But I've seen too many grassroots movements fizzle and die into nothing to get too excited quite yet (remember Occupy? The Arab Spring?). And of course, while Australia burned, it took a lot of pressure for the climate-change-denying prime minister to cut short his holiday.

This year seems to have been the year of the backlash against trans people, with hostility in the media (traditional, new, and, of course, social) and attempts to drive a wedge within the LGB and the T community. I hope that this is just reactionary, "old man shouting at clouds" sort of nonsense due mostly to the increased visibility of trans people, as they are more willing to come forward and be acknowledged for themselves. As well as the media, there has been a reactionary pushback in all the political parties around trans people, and the SNP, in particular, has been singled out for this. I hope with the help of high-profile allies like Mhairi Black and Nicola Sturgeon, this will be stamped out of a party that has been seen to be quite progressive over the last couple of decades.

At work, this was the year that we moved our HR and Payroll system into the cloud. This was an awful idea and if you're thinking about doing it, just don't. We had no choice, as our vendor was changing their business model and would stop supporting our on-site software, which is something that, with a payroll of several million pounds a month, we couldn't allow. At the end of it, we've got something that is hugely more expensive, has much more unplanned downtime, a more fragile ecosystem and has absolutely no benefit whatsoever to our users than what it replaced. But I'm pleased that our team pulled out the stops and did what was needed to make it happen. But still, if you have a choice, just... gonnae no.

In cheerier news, I've had quite a lot of fun with my nephlings this year. Gods help them, I appear to have become, in their minds, the "fun uncle", the one they can jump all over, and be flung around by. I've seen them more than in the past, and even managed to spend Christmas with them. Although this year, Christmas was very different to usual, as my grandad, who had been ill and bed-bound for the last year, passed away. So without anything to tether us, we all accepted an invitation from my aunt to spend Christmas at hers, in England, which meant that my sister and her family could drive down and join us, and still be back up for work shortly after, which is harder, and more expensive, when you have to cross the Irish Sea. That was quite nice, as Christmas has been a small, quiet affair for the past several years, so it was good to have a large gathering with children again. And I heard stories of my grandad that I hadn't heard before, which was lovely as well.

Continuing the cheerier news theme, over a thousand days since the Assembly fell, Northern Ireland is still without a government. But the last Westminster Parliament, in one of its rare, decent moments, legislated on its behalf and as of October 2019, abortion has been decriminalised and same-sex marriage has been enacted in the Province. Northern Ireland was the last part of the British Isles where neither of these things were possible, and I'm so glad that this has finally happened, even if it did take Westminster to do it.

There are reasons to be cheerful. We're making huge inroads to various kinds of mortality (just last month a new vaccine was approved for ebola by the EU); the far right failed to get a foothold in the last EU elections; and humpback whales numbers made an almost complete recovery. Here's some more good news stories to round out the year.

So it's seemed pretty awful this year, the world is on fire (literally and metaphorically), but the fire brigades are out there, doing their damndest to keep us all safe, despite all the pyromaniacs fighting them. I raise a glass to all the brave souls continuing the fight in 2020.

— 31 December 2019

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