Time to reflect on 2011. Nostradamus’ saying that the more things change the more they remain the same seems to apply in large doses. Rebellions in North Africa & the Middle East  seemed to give hope of better things to come. But at the end of the year little seems to have changed. In Tunisia a young stall holder set fire to himself & that set off the train of events we came to call the Arab Spring. The dictator of Tunisia, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali,  who had been feathering his own nest for decades, left the country. He fled as the uk press put it & went to Saudi Arabia. But not enough has moved in any of the other North African & Middle East countries to call it change. A revolution is a revolt which succeeds. On the whole these revolts have not become revolutions.  In Egypt for example what started out as a call for Mubarak to step down & for the system to be replace with a Western style democracy has ended up as a military coup. To outsiders, at any rate, it always seemed unlikely that the military would just give up their considerable privileges. Mubarak apparently assured the other dictators that he would hold firm & not stand down. When he did resign there was a huge cheer from the assembled masses in Tahrir Square. But the rest of the World was sceptical & rightly so. Where it is possible for one man to seize power, there is always the possibility, indeed the certainty that in the end it will happen. That is the problem with Western style democracy. Until it all becomes so complicated in terms of the separation of powers & the checks & safeguards imposed upon leaders, it is all too fragile. The demonstrators in Tahrir Square were conned. Removing Mubarak, who by the standards of many dictators was fairly benign, has not solved anything.  Indeed the situation may get worse. Apart from the risk of the military imposing their own rule, there is also the risk of the Muslim Brotherhood attaining power & imposing an Iran like grip on the country. There is also the risk of civil disorder & sectarian violence especially upon the Coptics, the descendants so it is said of the ancient Egyptians so beloved of archaeologists. We’ll see. But the omens are not encouraging. There are elections to come; we can only hope that it is the start of a better future for the country.

In Libya, the government was overthrown & the dictator, Gaddafi, was killed, it must be said in a somewhat brutal way. But this could not have occurred without the sustained bombing & other military action from NATO. However since the day, when the new Government, many of whom were in fact part of the Gaddafi government declared the country liberated, Libya has been rent with civil disorder & tribalism. The prisons have been emptied of the old prisoners & filled up new prisoners; mostly people who worked for the Gaddafi government. It is said that they are being tortured in the same way as prisoners were under the Gaddafi régime.  Caches of arms have disappeared & violent crime in Tripoli is on the increase. There is now no central government in the country.

Democracy in Iraq doesn’t seem to have brought many benefits. Sectarian violence in general, suicide bombers & corruption seems to have rendered the democratic exercise futile. Iraq is certainly better off without Saddam Hussein but the time doesn’t look imminent when the country settles down as a normal Western style democracy.

The Iranian authorities seem to have successfully, with the help of vast amounts of tear gas,  suppressed dissent. Their prisons are full, executions numbered in hundreds, many of them in public. At first the authorities in Iran seemed to welcome the unrest in Egypt because they thought that it would result in a system similar to their own. It must have been an unpleasant surprise for them to realise that the people wanted rid of them as well.

The authorities in Iran have supported Bashar al-Assad of Syria who has stubbornly held onto power in spite of, well….everything.

In Bahrain, Saudi Arabia sent in troops to quell dissent. There have been riots & protests in various parts of Africa.

Economically, oil producers have avoided the economic turmoil of the capitalist world which has itself seen occupations, riots & protests. Protests in the capitalist World have on the whole been fairly benign but heartfelt. People do not understand why the system seems to have collapsed. Indeed does anyone in fact understand what is going on? Government after government talks about austerity & the banks are being blamed for everything. Because employees of banks deal in money, lots of it is siphoned off to them. If they made, for example, clocks, they would not expect to fill their homes with hundreds of thousands of clocks. The whole thing is a bit of a mystery. It is all redolent or the Great Depression of the 1920s & 1930s which eventually resulted in the outbreak of World War 2. It is not certain that the lessons of the events of that period have been learned.

In Argentina, Christina Fernandez was re-elected but it has been revealed that she has cancer.

Cancer is still the blight of the human race. It seems to be so rampant that at this rate the vast majority of the population will have the disease at some point in the future & a cure doesn’t seem to be imminent. The great Vaclav Havel succumbed in December & Lech Walesa continues to live with it.

But the main problem has been climate change & environmental disasters not necessarily caused by climate change. Floods, receding coastlines, polar caps melting, increase in storms & hurricanes, increase in the urbanisation of the planet, the Tsunami in Japan may or not have been man made but the nuclear accidents certainly were.

There was an increase in earthquakes in 2011 which some of us believe were caused by the large Hadron Collider in Cerne, although scientists resolutely continue to pour scorn on the idea. There was even an earthquake in New Zealand & there was a minor earthquake in England, not areas generally known to have them. There were some bad earthquakes in South America, China & Pakistan.

The prognostication for this year 2012 is not good. We can only hope for the best… & a miracle.

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