With 2011 now behind us what were the highlights and lowlights that historians will write about?
It's a big field to choose from but I'll take a bit of a crack...
The deaths of Kim Jong Il, Colonel Gaddafi-Quddafi-Kaddafi and, of course, Osama-Usama bin Laden. It's a shame that we couldn't see off the Brothers Castro and Robert Mugabe, as well, but at least we have that to look forward to in the next year or so.
Kim Jong Il has been replaced by his son, surely the fattest North Korean in fifty years, who will no doubt continue to build the socialist utopian dream. I wonder whether inner city, latte drinking, Chardonnay sipping, Gaia-loving greenies recognize that the implementation of all of their policies would pretty much lead to a North Korean state?
Colonel Gaddafi-Quddafi-Kaddafi was caught hiding in a drain and executed on the spot by some overenthusiastic supporter of freedom and democracy. Note the use of sarcasm at the end of that last sentence. The mad Colonel's last thoughts must have been how he could have been so stupid as to voluntarily reveal his WMD program and give up its development in return for a lifting of international sanctions. I was talking to someone a few weeks ago and they asked who Gaddafi was, which you have to admit is a bit surprising, especially when the someone is in their thirties. I replied that he was the dictator of Libya for 42 years but that they took him out and shot him. The question then came, what for? For taking people out for 42 years and shooting them, I replied. Good riddance to bad rubbish. I hope the family and friends of those he murdered aboard Pan Am 103 can be somewhat more at peace now.
I wrote about the death of bin Laden when it happened, describing him as a truly evil bastard and that the wind would be knocked out of the violent extremists' sails. That has pretty much happened and while it will still take a generation for the true believers to get too old/die out, as it has with ETA, for example, the Islamist terrorist threat is now pretty well contained. That it means we have to take off our shoes when going through airport security or have our genitals groped when visiting the US is bin Laden's real legacy.
It's too early to say whether the Arab Spring will turn out to be an Arab Winter. It's more likely that in a few years' time things will pretty much be the same as they were before the uprisings but with different faces adorning placards in the town square so I'm not calling that as a highlight.
In cool things that happened, the world's first artificial organ transplant was done, using an artificial windpipe coated with stem cells.
Corporal Ben Roberts-Smith was awarded the Victoria Cross for various acts of conspicuously lunatic bravery in Afghanistan.
The Qantas dispute was an undoubted highlight. In what must be the left wing cage fight of the century, unions representing a large number of Qantas workers were left red faced and blustering when the company's gay, progressive left wing CEO, Alan Joyce, called their bluff and grounded the airline stranding hundreds of passengers getting ready to board their aircraft and inconveniencing thousands more who had to put off holiday trips. Hopefully, Qantas can maintain its independence from union control when the case is arbitrated before Fair Work Australia.
The loss of Christopher Hitchens. No death of a public figure has hit me as hard as did that of this man whose greatness came from his ability to defend Western civilization from its enemies, both within and without, and call out evildoers regardless of their political affiliation. He was a Marxist from an early age and we never knew, as he somewhat wisely avoided discussing the matter, whether he had given up on that odious ideology or was one of these people who would defend Marxism because it 'has never been done properly'. He was also a famous atheist who wrote God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, the title of which somewhat gave away the contents hidden therein. I reckon that in a contest between Religion and Leftism the latter would be by far and away the more potent and destructive poison. He had a way with words that will forever elude the 99.9% of us who hack things out on a daily basis. But it wasn't just his choice of words or defence of free speech and free thought and free living that was the attraction - he was a self described bon vivant, after all - it was that he was, simply put, fascinating. I reckon he could talk about second century Mongolian yurts for hours and keep his audience enthralled and amused as he sat at the front of the theatre unashamedly smoking and sipping from a tumbler of ubiquitous Johnny Walker Black Label. Vale, Christopher Hitchens.
There are other people whose loss we can mourn. Vaclev Havel was a great man at an important time of world affairs as Communism finally fell apart under its own ideological momentum, but he made 75 and his time was past so we remember and thank him for his deeds. Dick Winters, the great wartime officer whose heroic deeds and quiet manner were so brilliantly portrayed in the terrific mini series, Band Of Brothers, passed away at the ripe, old age of 92. In the same category of quiet bravery we also put Nancy Wake whose ability to elude German capture led to her being called the White Mouse. On the shoulders of such great people better societies are built. Steve Jobs also succumbed to illness. His legacy will be getting designers to better understand the human-machine interface providing access to computing and the Internet to many people who were previously unable to cope with it all - and I'm talking about the elderly, mainly, as well as the very young who can do with an iPad at age 3 or 4 what they would normally have to wait another 5-6 years to do on a standard PC.
The Japanese Tsunami. That 20,000 deaths and many more maimed and inured could be so quickly forgotten in the media's rush to scare the world about the non-existent nuclear threat at Fukushima or to blame it all on man made global warming highlights both the intellectual ineptitude of today's media as well as its abrogation of anything remotely resembling moral thinking.
Anders Breivik's massacre of 76 people in Norway. It wasn't just that he calmly boarded a train after setting off the bomb in his first attack and then travelled to where he would continue his killing spree but that he seemed so happy about it all and completely unrepentant. In many ways he was very similar to our own psycho, mass killer Martin Bryant. Naturally, the media pounced on a few paragraphs in his 1000 page 'manifesto' to decry him as a right wing, Christian extremist. That he also included many left wing statements in his manifesto and was never a churchgoer seemed to be missed in the media's race to apportion blame to its ideological opponents.
The Australian government probably had its worst year ever. Bowing to its extremist green coalition partner the Labor Party introduced a super profits tax on mining (the only sector of the economy holding the country up), a carbon tax (to attack the rest of the economy) in spite of a solemn promise not to do so, and new workplace legislation (in case it missed any big business with the previous two). These three things are already severely weakening business confidence and their impact will be felt for a generation, as that's how long it will take to pay back the financial mess we've been put in. What happens if China goes through a downturn is anybody's guess but it won't be pretty. I don't mind having an ideological fight over what the government should spend people's taxes on but I do get cranky that our current crop of political leaders have learned nothing from the social democratic spendathon that has wrecked Europe.
There are other things that could make the list - the Queensland floods and Western Australian fires, the ongoing nitwittery of spending somewhere between $40 and $100 billion on a broadband network, the political to and fro over illegal boat arrivals while hundreds of people continue to perish as a result of Labor's weakening of our immigration laws, and the replacement of a good and decent Speaker of the House, Harry Jenkins, with an immoral, drunken boob in Peter Slipper.
Apparently, we're all doomed anyway. According to Mayan prophesy the world is due to end in December 2012. Does anyone else see the irony of the Mayan's supposed ability to forecast the end of the world this year but inability to forecast their own demise a thousand years earlier?