What’s up with this year?
I heard an analyst say yesterday that Osama Bin Laden’s death isn’t hugely important since al-Qaida’s influence has already been massively diminished by the democratic uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa. People power wrote the sentence to which some Navy seals added a triumphant exclamation mark (footnotes pending). Nevertheless, Obama goes from zero to hero overnight, and Americans indulge in some tasteless celebrations over, let’s face it, the death of a man. I heard the news of the death with a mixture of relief, concern about the inevitable tensions it would arouse, and a certain hollowness. After all, it took the world’s most powerful nation, with unlimited resources, fifteen years to track down and kill a single man who had repeatedly and mercilessly messed with the psychology, if not the physical landscape, of democracy. Some humility, magnanimity even, was called for, I would have thought.
Meanwhile, north of the border, Canada’s political heritage has gone up in smoke in the unlikeliest set of election results in the country’s history. Canada now appears to be a polarised country – East/West, Left/Right – and the next five years look set to be a ding-dong battle. I’m pretty sure that the 40% of people who didn’t exercise their right to vote yesterday will nevertheless spend the next five years complaining, but then, if it means they vote next time, so be it.
And finally, this week sees the UK go to the polls again to decide whether or not to overhaul the traditional first-past-the-post voting system. If you’d asked me six months ago I probably would have been in favour, but now that the third party in the UK has made itself eternally unelectable, I’m not sure of the consequences that change would foster. In an era of schism and split, it seems odd to be ushering in an official ‘hedge-your-bets’ policy. ‘Better the devil you know’ is perhaps the order of the day, although that seems to be a highly unpopular aphorism this year in world politics.
Don’t even ask me about Germany, Italy, Ireland, etc. Come December I expect to be able to look back and work out where we are. Right now, however, I don’t seem to have a clue.