2017 - a review

2017 - a review

2017 has been marked (marred?) by the inauguration of Donald Trump as president of the United States of America. Oceans have been written about this property developer-cum-reality-TV star’s unfitness for office and I would only be covering old ground to add to it. I shall comfort myself by repeating the remarks of David Marr – well-known Australian commentator and broadcaster – who said that Herr Trump is a buffoon, lacking gravitas and knowledge, who gets his information about foreign affairs from a real-estate agent, his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and who goes around acting the part of President but is the actual president. Mr Trump has spent much of the year insulting Kim Jong Un, president of North Korea. That would not matter much except Kim devotes just about all of his country’s efforts towards making inter-continental ballistic missiles and nuclear devices to sit on top of them. He has had surprising success and seems to possess the ability to shoot a nuclear tipped missile to just about any city in the USA. He is as unstable as Trump and so an accidental nuclear catastrophe is not out of the question.

From the very moment Donald Trump assumed office, there have been efforts to unseat him through legal means and he and his inner circle are the subject of various Congressional enquiries as well as one carried out by a special prosecutor. To date no smoking guns have been unearthed but the enquiries continue. His base of supporters in the so-called red states are sticking by him and regard all of the dirt being dug up as ‘fake news’ and efforts by the ‘deep state’ to get rid of him. 

Across the Atlantic, the British government are grappling with the consequences of the referendum, called by David Cameron, former prime minister, on whether the UK should withdraw from the European Union. There was a slim majority in favour of withdrawal and the past two years has been taken up with organising that: so-called BREXIT. The UK press is full of articles every day of the agonisingly torturous proceedings necessary for BREXIT to happen. Those that voted in favour felt that once Britain left the union, she would be able to exert complete control of her borders (code for keeping coloured immigrants out), would no longer have to defer to the European Court of Justice and the squadrons of unelected officials in Brussels, but still enjoy the commercial benefits of membership. It does seem that they were misguided and that life outside the EU might turn out to be a little rocky. A further fiftteen months of negotiation lie ahead before the fateful day in March 2019 arrives. 

Islamism or jihadism continues to inspire atrocities around the world. It is routine to hear about suicide bombings in the Middle East that kill and main scores of passers-by. Goons inspired by a warped understanding of Islam have taken to mounting attacks on citizens in Europe. There was a bombing of a rock concert in Manchester early in the year. Killers have driven vehicles into crowds of pedestrians on the streets of British and European cities.  World-wide, the murderous activities of these goons kill large numbers of Muslims but more and more people who do not care one fig about Allah, the Prophet and the Holy Qur’an are being involved. It is not fashionable or polite to blame Islam but it is all about that religion for the atrocities are carried out in the name of Allah. I find it alarming that the so-called moderate Muslims living in the West do not scream and shout about the atrocities carried out in their name. Apologists for Jihadism attribute its rise to post-colonial anger, western support for Israel and the plight of the Palestinians, unemployment – especially of young men –  in the Middle East, lack of respect for Islam and the huge inequalities in Middle Eastern societies.  The list is endless. Whatever the causes, the cost of policing and overseeing hundreds of malevolent young men, the disruption of air travel and general feeling of unease that pervades are considerable and it is not at all clear how it will end.

There several very nasty little wars going on around the World. The faux-sainted Aung Son Suu Kyi, leader of Myanmar, is presiding over a textbook example of ethnic cleansing. The Syrians have besieged several thousand men, women and children in a suburb of Damascus for more than four years with predictable consequences. Horrid struggles are taking place all over Africa. A monster cholera epidemic with up to a million sufferers goes on in Yemen while a bunch of Shia rebels takes on the might of the Sunni neighbours, Saudi Arabia. Western observers report that is becoming increasingly common for the belligerents in these struggles to target children or to use them as unwitting suicide bombers.

Transgender(TG) issues have taken up much space in the media and have become very much the ‘fad du jour’. In the UK, one can find oneself in very hot water if the ‘incorrect’ pronoun is employed when addressing one of the fifty-seven varieties of transgender person. TG-ism must be one of the very few domains boasting as many varieties as Heinz Foods. This business has sparked several responses from officialdom, falling over itself to be inclusive and sensitive. Some of the more ridiculous measures proposed include teachers allowing pupils to change gender  without parental consent, dropping the terms ‘mother’ and ‘father’ from school admission forms, discarding the term ‘pregnant women’ and replacing it with ‘pregnant people’ and allowing anyone to change the assigned sex descriptor recorded on their birth certificates. In an article of this sort, a detailed discussion of this kind of nonsense would take up too much space and I prefer to leave the implications of such ‘reforms’ to the readers’ imagination. And all of this to placate  a tiny minority of persons.

Another popular fad is the reappraisal of the lingering effects of British Imperialism and demands for apologies for its sins. By implication it had no benefits. It would be hard today to advocate colonialism, and I do not. The British Empire had its beginnings three hundred or more years ago.  A handful of adventurers set out in small ships and ‘discovered’ heretofore unknown lands. Later on, people in the British Isles went to such places and settled. Some went to escape religious and other kinds of persecution. Some went to ‘spread the gospel to the heathen’. Yet others, saw possible commercial advantages to be had, especially those that went to the Indian sub-continent as servants of the East India Company. The consequences of such activity were neither totally malign nor benign but it happened. Apologies for the bad stuff from me, for the activities of people contemporary with my great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandfathers, would have as much force as one from a contemporary citizen of Rome apologising for the Roman Empire! I feel not one smidgeon of guilt for the iniquities of the British Empire nor do I claim any responsibility for any good it may have done. I do not see how I can apologise for things I did not do. By the way, I wait anxiously for words of commiseration from a Meccan for the damage the Prophet’s violent spread of Islam brought about.

The requirement for universities to provide so-called safe spaces for students has gathered as much pace as the demands of the TG community. Press reports would suggest that students do not wish to hear difficult topics discussed. They do not want to find that certain set books have upsetting passages within their pages. They manage to prevent controversial speakers from appearing on campuses. The idea that universities are institutions in which all topics are on limits and open for public dissection is now considered quaint. Inclusiveness, diversity and avoidance of hurt feelings are all thought to be much more important. Germaine Greer, academic, feminist and trenchant speaker fell foul of a student union because she holds that transgender males are not real women. There is a great fuss over an Oxford academic who wishes to conduct a sober re-appraisal of the ethics and morals of empire. Likewise, those, who do not wish to see monuments to former notables removed from public display, have received death threats. Undergraduates at Glasgow University Medical School refused to attend lectures on how to pass on bad news to relatives because they held that such teaching might trigger negative emotions in students, who had lost a relative from disease. (Were such a trend to take hold in medical schools, there could be many students who refused to learn about cancer or heart disease, for example, because nana or grandpa had died from them.  Think about that!) I supposed that universities were supposed to be places in which dangerous topics are openly thrashed out and bad ideas defeated by argument and not protest. Undergraduates who cannot read the Merchant of Venice (anti-Semitism) or Othello (racism) or Romeo and Juliet (under-age sex) are not sufficiently adult to attend university and have no place wasting academics’ time and energy. 

One of the few heartening things to happen in 2017 was the astonishing resurgence of tennis player Roger Federer. After being obliged to take six months off because of injury, he turned up in Australia in January and won the Open. He went on to pick up a pair of Masters’ tournaments in the US before winning Wimbledon for the umpteenth time. His great rival, Rafa Nadal also had a stellar year and pipped him to the #1 spot at year’s end. But, Nadal, Murray, Djokovich, Wawrinka, Raonic and Nishikori, all top ten players and all much younger than Roger, are off injured and unlikely to play during the imminent Australian season.

We must keep our fingers crossed and hope that President Trump does not get sucked into a war with North Korea. He faces mid-term Congressional elections in November in which he might lose control of the Senate, the House or both. A loss of either would clip his wings. Some of the madness in universities and politically correct circles will burn itself out after the expulsion of much more hot air. Perhaps 2018 will turn out better than 2017. Hard to be much worse.

Happy New Year!

Comments please.

David Amies

Lethbridge, Alberta,