Having finished our New Year’s celebrations, we have now soberly taken our first steps into the second half of the second decade of the 21st century.
Many – indeed, most of us – leave 2014 with relief, and view 2015 with trepidation at best.
But that should not deter us. This forthcoming year is replete with positives. While it would not qualify as “the best of times,” all too often we obsess over the capillaries of the leaves on the trees and ignore the forest. Just think for a moment:
We are at peace internationally. We have been noting the centennial of the beginning of World War I, but 100 years ago, we were just entering the meat-grinder of ghastly casualties. And 75 years ago, World War II was beginning to warm up slaughterhouses even more massive than in WWI. And 40 years ago, the United States had just extracted itself from the sanguinary frustration of Vietnam. To be sure, there is fighting in the Middle East, but not on the level of Desert Shield/Storm or Iraqi Freedom. Conflicts in Afghanistan, Ukraine, and Syria/Iraq appear manageable. Body bags from Uncle Sam’s little wars are few and far between.
Opposing viewpoint: David Kilgour
We are at peace domestically. The assorted riots in the U.S. associated with police killings are trivial when compared with 1968’s “cities are burning” saga, following the Martin Luther King Jr. assassination or the destruction in Los Angeles after the 1992 acquittal of police following the beating of Rodney King (53 dead; one billion dollars in property destruction). And in Canada, the sleeping dog of Quebec sovereignty is snoring and unlikely to be kicked any time soon.
We are prosperous. The long slog to “turn the corner” on our Great Recession appears to have been reached without the traumas that roiled the world in the Great Depression, i.e., no resurgence of fascism, communism, or socialism. Occupy Wall Street and Poor No More have evaporated. U.S. economic growth is north of 3 percent; unemployment is moving south of 6 percent; and inflation remains under control. Energy prices are significantly lower—admittedly a mixed blessing for energy exporters—but manufacturers and consumers are pleased, and purchasing during the holiday season reflected renewed customer confidence. Our ‘poor’ live better than most individuals throughout human history could even have conceived.
The plague did not come. All of the “sky is falling” rhetoric regarding Ebola sweeping the globe and becoming the equivalent of the 1918-19 Great Flu proved empty. The widespread media coverage of panic over Ebola increased medical research funding and prompted revised regulations and emergency planning—always useful—but (fortunately) nothing has proved immediately necessary in North America, Europe or Asia. Same also for other alphabet diseases (MARS, SARS, AIDS) touted as the Next Great Plague.
Famine has not struck globally, let alone our well-padded individual citizens. Indeed, when obesity has become a problem of poverty, one may edge toward the conclusion that famine on a worldwide basis has been defeated.
So of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (War, Famine, Disease, and Death) only Death remains (and life expectancy continues to improve—with or without Obamacare.)
While we complain incessantly over the failures of politicians and social structures, we can benefit from some perspective. Canada and the United States remain intensely democratic, committed to the rule of law, respectful of individual freedoms (speech, religion, association, assembly), and promoting equality of people. Our judiciary is honest; our political structures essentially not corrupt; our armed forces firmly committed to civilian authority; economic free markets operate with minimal constraint; crime is down.
In the long march of human history, such conditions have been rare.
So while 2015 will be eventful, it will not be interesting in the terms of the Chinese curse, “May you live in interesting times.”
There will be a peaceful federal election in Canada; it will be of interest to political analysts but not an event that convulses the nation.
There will be continued semi-immobility in the U.S. federal political system as Congress and the President remain at loggerheads. Frustrating for all concerned, but not a national crisis. We will begin to sort through the options for Republican and Democrat 2016 presidential nominations.
We are challenged by differences between minorities and majorities—but these differences will not prompt armed insurrections. Our concerns over Islamic fundamentalists morphing into terrorism will continue but remain far below levels plaguing other nations.
And the New York Yankees, the Washington Redskins, the Toronto Blue Jays, and the Toronto Maple Leafs will all have the opportunity to improve on their 2014 performances.