Warning! This "post" may use language or lead you to images that are offensive to some, although the words used are in the public domain and, in context, are generally inoffensive.
The many fans of Monty Python will be familiar with the work of Eric Idle, a Python of renown and voted in 2005 as one of the top 20 comedians ever, in a poll of fellow comedians. The "Life of Brian", one of their greatest successes and released 30 years ago, contains the song, "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life", written and sung by Eric. Given the year we have just been through, at least the title of the song is an encouragement even if the subject matter as conveyed by the lyrics (should you choose to listen to the song) suggests you only look at the bright side "at the end of life".
So, what sort of year have you had? One that you can sit back at the end of it and say "whew! that wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be", or have you have had an annus horribilis? No job, more debts than you wanted or can afford to repay, no interest income? Mixed fortunes, I suspect, for many people although I continue to have a strong sense that there is more positive feeling in the East than in the West. Why? Politicians, for one, in the West are having a more torrid time of it than their Eastern counterparts. Yes, the economies in various western countries might have been spared the ultimate tsunami effect of the financial crisis, thanks to vast amounts of money having been thrown at the problems, but the end result of that spending will ultimately come home to roost. New jobs have not been created in the manner anticipated, and although I am not an economist - so someone will undoubtedly explain it to me - I still don't see how we can escape inflationary pressures in due course.
In addition armed conflicts continue in the Middle East, with an increasing loss of life amongst civilians and troops, who are fighting a war that is not theirs, but doing so in the interests of world peace. Yet I am unconvinced that there is likely to be a "winner" out of this. Will the deployment of extra troops envisioned by the USA, for example, really bring an end to the conflict? Especially once they all leave. And Somali pirates, who are getting richer by the week, and where I remain flummoxed by the reticence of the major powers who can do nothing to stop them due to some issues over international waters.
And now we have once again the spectre of terrorism in a different format, with the attempted blowing up of the Delta aircraft into the USA. This was carried out in a manner that will soon mean us all having to wear transparent clothing to match our "liquid bags" so security officials can see we have nothing to hide! Not the prettiest thought with which to end the year.
So, a mixed and muddled 2009 - where to for 2010?
Economically we will still survive; although I am not sure the pace of recovery will be to everyone's liking. It will not be a straightforward year, and I was very taken with Tom Holland's "Monitor" article this morning in the SCMP. In a rather self-deprecating manner he took himself to task for making predictions for 2009 that he then reversed later. I am not sure that he should have reversed some of those predictions - he should merely have adjusted the timing. One of those predictions was in relation to the possibility of the rise in the Hang Seng index being premature and for a correction to follow; it didn't and today the HSI is markedly higher than where it was at the start of the year. BUT, I still think his original thinking was correct - it is a matter of time. I believe we know that the rise is not all due to magnificent results from the listed companies but a lack of alternative homes for investors' money.
I am more concerned about the politics, the social imbalances, the conflicts and the terrorists than I am about the economies. We have to keep speaking up and speaking out. We have to be vigilant in a world where we will create our own downfall if we ignore the continuing and growing divide between the "haves" and the "have nots". And we will do well to remember the words, once again, of Eric Idle in his "Galaxy Song" and his final stanza that reads:
So remember, when you're feeling very small and insecure,
How amazingly unlikely is your birth,
And pray that there's intelligent life somewhere up in space,
'Cause there's bugger all down here on Earth.
For me, and I am one of the lucky ones, 2010 is going to be a busy year (hopefully), as I currently have plenty to keep me occupied and generally out of mischief! Being "aware" doesn't mean you have to always be miserable and serious. There are lighter sides to life, in many situations, no matter how desperate it might seem.
Thank you for reading my rants and raves this year - for next year I will start off with some thoughts on the places where I am most involved, Asia (principally Korea and China, but others too) and the Middle East.
I would like to wish you a productive, healthy and hopefully happy 2010 - and if you are lucky enough to be prosperous too, remember there are some wonderfully dedicated people in the world working for a variety of charities that need your help.