Good riddance to 2013. I could say my discontent with this fast fading year, and for that matter 2012, is all about the poor Middle East, but it isn’t. For the most part genuine popular grievances were expressed in 2011 and, quelle surprise, they met the fearsome resistance of authoritarian states ruled by unaccountable narrow cliques. In Egypt the state’s ruling backbone reasserted itself after the Muslim Brotherhood interregnum. In Syria the ruling clique and their allies are, quite literally, fighting for their lives. Frankly, what else was expected? Oh and Libya was an apparently “necessary” western intervention to prevent a massacre in one city that helped to destroy an already weak state and replace it with the anarchy of multifarious militias. Good decision, western and Gulf leaders.
No, none of that makes me “hope for a better year” in 2014. If “all politics is local” then all of my preoccupations are personal. I don’t have a runner in the Mid-East race, but I do have some family left in England. Some of it has, tragically, gone belly up over the last 15 months, but a lot of it remains, and some of it is even renewed, revisited and meaningful. So here’s to them (they know who they are), and here’s also to that small, diminishing, but valued, group of friends I have actually seen this year.