2014 – Goodbye to all that

So according to the Oxford Dictionary the word of the year for 2014 is vape. Looking into the rear-view mirror as we round the bend away from 2014 that seems to me to be quite a vacuous focus to select. 2014 has, on reflection, been a pretty grim year and it’s one I won’t be sorry to turn a corner on and so perhaps it’s just as well to view it through the smokey haze.

It’s been a year in which civilians have been targeted by extremists in high-profile attacks. Often school children.

This year’s final chapter was a horrific one when in Pakistan more than 140 children and their teachers were brutally murdered in their school. The stuff of nightmares. To remind us that targeting school children is not a new thing for the Taliban there, though, Malala Yousafzai was this year’s recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.

Similarly Boko Haram has targeted school children in Nigeria. They apparently still hold many of the 200 school girls hostage of the #BringBackOurGirls meme which grabbed the attention of a horrified world this summer.

Then there has been the grim, demonic, seemingly unstoppable rise of ISIS. Rampaging through Syria and Iraq killing, enslaving and kidnapping as if they have stepped through a time vortex straight from hell.

Then there’s the opening up of a new ‘cold-war-style’ gulf with Russia over the Crimea. There is no sign of either side backing down with the imposition of ever-more extreme sanctions - the latest announced this week. Countless civilians have been caught in the cross-fire between Ukraine and pro-Russia sympathisers, but perhaps the most famed by-stander victims were the passengers of downed flight MH17 – one of two ill-fated Malaysian airline planes not to make it to destination this year.

America has had a relatively bad year too. There have been the Ferguson riots prompted by the shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown which have exposed deep societal rifts. There have also been a series of high-profile botched executions in the US as new drug combinations were trialled. One man who was executed took nearly two hours to die an agonising death. These experimental lethal cocktails being trialled in the country are largely due to European drug companies refusing to flog components likely to be used in capital punishment. Then last week the CIA released a review (or at least a heavily redacted summary) of US torture use during the ‘war on terror’. It concluded that the use of torture including water boarding, stress positions and ‘rectal rehydration’ saved 0 lives.

Time magazine’s person of the year, this year, though, are the people who light candles in the darkness. They are the health workers fighting Ebola.

They stand with the teachers who continue to teach in Pakistan and Afghanistan, the North Koreans who testified at the UN commission of inquiry, Malala’s decision to donate her prize money to rebuild schools in Gaza, Australians making #I’llRideWithYou trend…. there are flames in the darkness. Here’s to 2015.

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