This has been an eventful year. Osama bin Laden is still on the lam. George Bush is losing his popularity but keeping his faith. Tony Blair is losing his hair and will soon – by his own choice – lose his address. In Bermuda we’ve lost ‘Limey-in-Bermuda’ and Trimingham’s and Smith’s.
On the other hand, the Queen is still on the throne – been there fifty-three years now. Charles and Camilla are still together. Cuba’s Fidel Castro ‘vivas’ on. And an indigenous Indian has just won the Presidency in Bolivia.
We saw dark-skinned Frenchmen, of African and Arabian origin, go on a long rampage of car-burnings in France. We’ve seen thousands of pink-skinned Australians – women and men, thus truly representative of Australia’s new equality – riot against the presence of darker-skinned new Australians.
On balance, then, it seems that not much changed. However, there were changes.
As always, changes came in small things, usually un-trumpeted, generally un-remarked. That is to say, not specially remarked; the way that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s little medical problem came up as ‘breaking news’.
For instance, the election of an Indian as the President of Bolivia. Important news, or just another ho-hum? Big shift, or just another election in some ‘banana republic’?
Reality? It’s a big shift. In Venezuela, and soon to be in Bolivia, there’s evidence of a process of separating from the USA and past styles of US involvement in South American politics. Not quite as extreme as Castro’s separation, but still a clear separating.
Over in Iraq, in Bush’s war there, the Coalition has been de-coalescing as nations drift away and pull out their troops. It’s odd how, when nations were joining the Coalition, Bush and his team made such large noises when a country like Lithuania sent in a contingent of thirty men. Then, the Bush team trumpeted and blared the news that the Coalition was growing, and support was increasing. Now that these small countries are pulling out their thirty men units and are withdrawing, it’s quite unimportant and not newsworthy.
Barbados, once described as ‘little England’ in the Caribbean, is contemplating a referendum over the question of whether or not Barbados should dethrone the Queen – gently of course and not as those naughty Brits did when they chopped off Charles I’s head – and declare themselves to be a Republic and set about finding and electing their own “George Bush” to lead them. Here in Bermuda we’re still dickering over whether we should have a referendum or not.
This year, what has happened is that the world has gone several steps further along a path where small men and women – the kind of people who previously didn’t matter – are gaining more power; know they’re gaining that power; and are using that power to their advantage. What Africa calls ‘Big Men’ are being cut down.
With her son dead in Iraq, ex-Mom Cindy Sheehan has cut down Commander-in-Chief George Bush. Something really nebulous called ‘world opinion’ stays America’s hand and makes super-power America afraid to pull its vulnerable ground troops out of Iraq and leave matters to be resolved with massive US airpower.
Here in Bermuda, we all watch as our economy stretches and Bermudians get squeezed in the stretch. Not really earning enough to buy a house. Not earning so little that they cannot afford decent food and a car and a trip and nice clothes. We all watch as what should be Bermuda’s middle class gets squeezed in the middle.
With the sudden demise of two anchor shops, Hamilton’s City Fathers are now appearing – but only appearing – to do something about their fifteen acre shopping mall. They’ll probably do something. Probably too little. Probably too late. Already, I’ve heard the first Bermudian radio ad for on-line shopping.
In all, this Christmas 2005 finds me in a world where guns are still going off, children are still starving, and fussing seems still more prevalent than fixing.
But one thin little stream of hope keeps running, and every year I think that stream runs a wee bit stronger.
Thanks to the Internet and twenty-four hour news, we now know more about everywhere and everything. All of us now live in world where our consciences get tickled more frequently and more regularly.
This Christmas, I give thanks for a world that has a bigger and still-growing conscience.
Merry Christmas to you and all yours…and keep thinking about all our fellow human beings in Bermuda and spread all over this globe.