Let me depress you.
According to some UN agency that has carried out a survey across 67 countries, people are more optimistic now than at any time in the past decade.
This is despite the fact that many respondents must have lived through 2013. Possibly, like General Sharon, they have been in a medically induced coma. So here is Uncle Bogler’s roundup of 50 things that happened last year:
- Today: In the wake of fresh sectarian riots, rival Catholic and Protestant politicians in Northern Ireland fail to decide whose flags should be flown on which days from Belfast City Hall. After several months of debating this vitally important matter, US mediation fails to break the deadlock.
- Seven-times Formula One champion, winner of over 70 Grands Prix, possibly the greatest motor racing driver in history, 44-year-old Michael Schumacher is fighting for his life in a Grenoble hospital after falling over and bashing his head on a rock while leisure skiing in the genteel resort of Meribel. He was wearing a safety helmet. You have been warned
- In Spain, over 50% of males under 25 are unemployed. Bonus fact: 10% of people under 25 in Britain surveyed by The Prince’s Trust say they have contemplated suicide. 30% felt there was little point in living.
- Hundreds of desperate economic migrants and refugees fleeing horrifying violence from Africa and the Middle East have died in shipwrecks in the Mediterranean. The front-line islands of Malta and Lampedusa are overwhelmed. Little help is forthcoming from the EU despite calls to tackle the problem.
- Possibly 10,000 people have been massacred on tribal lines by rival militias supporting the elected President and rebel Vice-President of the potentially oil-rich state of South Sudan, which only came into being in 2011 after 20 years of bloody civil war with the north. 180,000 refugees internally displaced in makeshift camps have no food and little fresh water.
- Nelson Mandela, symbol of hope for millions in South Africa, dies at 94. At his memorial ceremony, a madman is hired by ANC organisers to sign President Zuma’s address for the deaf. The President of the USA and the Prime Minister of Britain are captured on TV taking a ‘selfie’ on a mobile phone with the attractive, blonde Prime Minister of Denmark, while Michelle Obama looks away in disgust.
- The word ‘selfie’ (meaning a photograph one has taken of oneself) enters the English dictionary.
- Ten million refugees flee the civil war in Syria, either internally displaced or in precarious, freezing camps across the Lebanese, Turkish, Jordanian and Iraqi borders. Utterly dismal failure of the international community to step in and help builds only trouble for the future. Too many atrocities to list here.
- The Syrian army murders thousands of civilians with chemical weapons. Despite having warned him not to do this, US and Britain back down from launching a punitive attack on President Assad after he agrees international experts can destroy 1,000 tonnes of Sarin nerve agent he has stockpiled, enough to kill six million people. Experts decide to dump the poison off the coast of Cyprus.
- Increasingly isolationist and bitterly divided US Congress repeatedly fails to agree Presidential budgets and programmes. Already underpaid public service employees go two weeks without pay. 30 million poor Americans go without proper healthcare.
- True extent of US global electronic surveillance through operation PRISM is revealed by self-exiled whistleblower, Edward Snowden. Google, other search engines and social networks have been used to spy on literally everyone. World leaders’ phones have been tapped. Only the security service seems surprised.
- Nearly naked, ex-Disney poster child and teeny pop diva Miley Cyrus wiggles her cutey little ass suggestively against the writhing groin of a black dancer in a promotional video. Goes viral, leads to the invention of the etymologically meaningless word ‘twerking’.
- Twerking enters the dictionary along with ‘selfie’. Death of the English language is announced.
- Growing tensions in the South China Sea, ostensibly over ownership of a few small, uninhabited islands and their coastal fishing grounds, revives fears of Chinese reprisal for 70-year-old Japanese war atrocities. The annual visit by Japanese Prime Minister Abe to a shrine to Japanese war dead results in the abandonment of proposed talks.
- Diplomatic tension grows between UK and Spain over construction of an artificial reef outside the harbour of long-contested Gibraltar peninsula, upsetting the one Spanish fisherman who claims rights there. Extra border checks ordered by Spain detain fuming commuters up to six hours a day. The EU rules in favour.
- 350,000 British families are reportedly relying on free food banks this Christmas. Britain has the seventh largest economy in the world (it’s slipped a bit lately). The number of City of London bankers earning salaries in excess of £1 million a year now exceeds 2,000.
- Sectarian tensions and violence continue to escalate in Iraq, on the verge of becoming a failed state. Some estimates of civilian deaths since the invasion of 2003 now exceed one million. 132k seems more accurate. 1 January, city of Fallujah falls to al-Qaeda forces.
- Much-vaunted England batting line-up collapses in total humiliation in the Ashes cricket test series in Australia (no, seriously, this is important). For the fourth match in succession, England’s bowlers fail to make a dent, fielders fumble many catching opportunities; Aussies crow. Star bowler Graeme Swann quits the game and flies home. Coach Andy Flower says he still has much to contribute and plans to stay on, regardless. One more match to go…
- Following retirement in 2013 of the Titanic figure of manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, under Arsène Wenger rivals Arsenal go top of the Premiership league, Man. United sink slowly from view…
- Islamic al-Shabab insurgents seek to impose sharia states in Algeria, Mali, Nigeria, Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia, Central African Republic. Supported by the African Union, French troops are drawn into a spiralling neocolonial war in the southern Sahel, hailed as the new front in the ‘War on Terror’.
- Continuing US drone strikes in northern Pakistan create tension, preventing possibly constructive talks with Taliban leadership. Most NATO troops on course for withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2014, raising fears of rapid collapse of Karzai government and ending of rights for women. Cameron hails job done, after 12 years of war.
- A 75% wealth tax is introduced in France.
- Payment for sex, also in France, is criminalised (surely the final blow to traditional French culture?).
- Fragile democracy experiment in Egypt ends after weeks of demonstrations with the arrest and show trial of autocratic elected president Morsi and the reimposition of military dictatorship. Over 200 Muslim Brotherhood party leaders are killed or imprisoned. The US suspends some military aid.
- ‘Arab Spring’ countries Tunisia and Libya on the verge of sectarian meltdown, awash with Western-supplied weapons. Random Islamist militias imposing unilateral rule on parts of both countries, making them ungovernable. BP gas field targeted by al-Shabab hostage-takers retaken by Algerian special forces. 39 killed. US ambassador assassinated in Benghazi.
- Some progress is finally made in US nuclear negotiations with Iran after election of moderate president Rouhani and constructive interventions by Secretary of State, John Kerry. Immediately condemned by Iran’s radical clerics and Revolutionary Guard. Condemned by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu. And condemned by the US Republican senate. Does no-one want peace?
- A ‘two-state solution’ to the Palestinian question is now semi-officially dead in the water, but talks resume and limp on. Israel releases some prisoners, approves more illegal settlements in the West Bank.
- A meteor the size of a bus airbursts over the city of Chelyabinsk in Siberia with the force of several Hiroshima bombs, reminding us that Mankind does not have an unlimited lease on the planet. Over 1,000 people sustain injuries from flying glass as windows implode in the pressure-wave. Amazingly, no-one is killed.
- Scot, Andy Murray wins Wimbledon Men’s title, first Brit for 70 years – flunks at Flushing Meadow, then goes off for back-surgery and is knocked-out in third round of Dubai Open.
- Another royal baby joins the queue for the British throne. This one is – hey, he’s third in line! And they call him George. (We were hoping for Prince Duwayne). Hospital nurse, Jacinta Saldanha, commits suicide after falling for Australian DJ’s hoax call asking for report on Duchess of Cambridge’s condition.
- Tony Abbott is re-elected to the role of lowbrow, foul-mouthed, climate-change-denying, anti-immigrant, ‘drown the refugees’, Ocker Prime Minister of Australia, after deposing not-much-nicer colleague, PM Julia Gillard, in misogynistic palace coup. Australia suffers new heatwave, followed by floods. Regains the Ashes, 5-0.
- North Korea has a new beloved eternal leader, Kim Jong-un. Fat boy immediately threatens to nuke America and later has his favourite uncle fed to hungry dogs after a show trial lasting four minutes.
- The months-long standoff between Turkey’s increasingly authoritarian Prime Minister Erdogan and millions of anti-corruption, pro-democracy demonstrators is split by a developing coalition of forces under ‘moderate Islamist’ reactionary, Fetullah Gulen (70). EU suspends membership negotiations yet again. Will ‘progressive’ Turkey become the new Iran in 2014? Or will the military intervene, as in Egypt?
- Murder of Fusilier Lee Rigby, off-duty soldier publicly hacked to death in a south London street by two dimwitted Afro-British ‘converts’ claiming to be soldiers of Islam, is declared by UK Government as ‘threat to national security’ and triggers wave of anti-Muslim attacks, mosque-burnings, etc. Abuse of prisoners by the British military in Afghanistan is now officially known as ‘challenging direct’.
- Failure of UK Government to take action to control the expected new wave of east European immigration in January and/or to suppress scare stories about numbers and intentions to sponge on benefits raises fears of anti-immigrant backlash whipped-up by rightwing press. Romanian passengers arriving at Heathrow on January 1st turn out to be workers returning after the Christmas break.
- Faced with threats from Putin to cut gas supplies, Ukraine’s President Yanukovitch ignores mass demonstrations by pro-western supporters for closer integration with the EU and does a deal instead to boost economic ties with resurgent global power, Russia. Fears grow of Ukraine being split in two.
- Financed by western ‘ally’ Saudi Arabia, Sunni al-Qaeda militias intervening in the civil war in Syria create ‘third force’, causing break-up of the moderate forces opposed to President Assad and the establishment of a brutal sharia state-within-a-state in the east of the country, that threatens to spill over into Jordan.
- Iranian-backed Shi’a Hezbollah fighters from Lebanon join the Government side. Over 200 British Muslims are now fighting (and dying) in Syria. The tangle of pro- and anti-western alliances and factional in-fighting is so complicated that no-one can see how to end it.
- Islamist, Caucasian-separatist suicide bombers begin to target the Sochi winter olympics, with outrages perpetrated against civilians in Volgograd. 32 die in two days. Putin orders ‘maximum security’.
- Sleaze update: overweight, middle-aged Mayor of Toronto, Rob Ford, remains in post, more popular than ever, after being videoed apparently smoking crack cocaine while drunk.
- Overweight, middle-aged chairman of the UK’s Co-Operative bank, Methodist minister Paul Flowers, is videoed in a sting operation, buying £300-worth of cocaine. It emerges that the bank did no ‘due diligence’ checks when appointing a chairman with no prior banking experience. The ‘ethical’ bank runs out of money and is rescued by not-very-ethical hedge funds.
- Overweight, middle-aged Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, is revealed to have fathered a secret love-child.
- UK TV’s ‘Domestic Goddess’ Nigella Lawson, forced to testify against herself as a witness in a court case, admits she used cocaine and allowed her kids to smoke dope. Ex-husband, 70-year-old millionaire art collector Charles Saatchi, testifies his wife was so addled, she gave away £685,000 to her two Italian maids without noticing. The Grillo sisters are acquitted of embezzlement charges.
- Not overweight, former UK Europe minister Denis McShane is gaoled for six months for faking expense receipts – a trick he presumably learned in the 1970s as ‘Father of the Chapel’ (shopsteward) of the London Radio branch of the National Union of Journalists. (Yes, I was there…)
- Two former Murdoch redtop editors, both sometime ‘friends’ of Prime Minister David Cameron, go on trial accused of phone-tapping, perjury and bribing policemen.
- In Zimbabwe, despotic 86-year-old former communist lawyer and father of the nation, Robert Mugabe is ‘re-elected’ by an overwhelming majority.
- Canada, Denmark and Russia at loggerheads over rights to drill for oil and gas in the Arctic Ocean, now ice-free in summer for the first (recorded) time. 30 Greenpeace anti-Arctic-oil-drilling protesters thrown in gaol by the Russians, accused of piracy, are later released by President Putin as a goodwill gesture; it’s said, to throw off criticism of his human rights record in advance of the Sochi games. Drilling, however, resumes.
- A succession of the most extreme weather events yet recorded causes misery around the world. Hurricane Sandy inundates New York. The three-year Texas drought intensifies. Typhoon Hayan obliterates vast swathes of the Philippines, leaving two million homeless. Towns in the US bible-belt are swallowed whole by mile-wide tornadoes. Snow blankets Middle East, Vietnam. Parts of Canada are brought to a halt by a rare ice-storm. Britain has heatwave then is battered by repeated, unusually deep Atlantic depressions.
- Nigella’s father, formerly overweight Chancellor Lord Lawson, who presided over devastating 1980s economic recession, continues publicly to deny climate change. US scientists privately admit their 2-deg. forecasts are sanitised for political consumption: it’s unlikely warming can now be kept below a planet-killing 6-deg. by 2150.
- Beer-swilling, fag-smoking, climate-change-denying leader of populist anti-immigration, anti-EU, put-the-clock-back-to-1954, saloon-bar-bores party UKIP, Nigel ‘The Joker’ Farage, calls on the British government to reverse its policy of refusing to admit Syrian refugees.
At last, some cause for optimism in 2014!
Someone else’s review of 2013 reminds me that I forgot to include the death of Ding-dong The Witch. 30-year Cabinet papers from 1984 reveal that she and her imported American hit-man Ian McGregor did in fact plot the death of the mining industry, six months in advance of the terrible, year-long strike that sealed its fate – an accusation she publicly denied.