The Passing of years is a very useful, and yet entirely arbitrary human construct. It is true that our small planet completes an orbit around the sun every ‘year’, but choosing any point along that orbit to measure from is essentially arbitrary. Some points, say the Solstices or the Equinox’s might be less arbitrary than others, but it’s all human construct. January 1st is ‘our’ new year because of Ancient Roman Festivals involving the God of Doors, Janus. Others celebrate a new-year on a particular Solstice, or in time with a lunar calender.
Regardless of it’s arbitrary nature, the passing of the year offers time for reflection both forward and back. It is the marking of perhaps the largest ‘human’ marker of time. We recall, as we age, the passing of the year and recurrence of annual traditions. By perhaps four or five Children in places that practice it can recall that ‘Christmas is coming’. Longer stretches of time, 5 years, a decade, seem more illusionary. Assigned value and determination after the fact. Larger units still exceed human lifespan. I have seen the end of one century(and indeed one millennium) and the beginning of another. I think it unlikely I shall see this centuries end, though with the pace of medical technologies, who knows.
So with that in mind, where, in the future, will 2014 stand in terms of history. What events will historians look back on as significant, or telling. So close as we are it’s hard to tell, but some proper guesses can be made. Certainly the largest political events seem to be from our vantage point, the Crisis in the Ukraine and the emergence of the Islamic State in the middle east. Both poised serious problems for diplomacy and altered previous Geo-political understandings.
The Ukrainian crisis was predicable in a general way if not specifically. The friction in Eastern Europe between the poles of the EU and Russia have been growing for some time. Putin has shored up his localized support through nationalism, a ‘reclaiming’ of Russia’s place in the world, or at least that is his press. It’s not clear to me Putin ‘wanted’ the situation in Ukraine. He would have been happy to allow the previous democratic government to cave to his demands and carry on. He would probably have accepted some sort of compromise government after the fact, but as often happens, local events impel wider ones. Once the Maiden had brought down the government, stability was not likely. One persons Corrupt Autocrat, is anothers democratically elected president. The current government in Ukraine has to deal with the economic situation that helped precipitate both protests and the previous governments flip-flopping on issues of EU integration, but also with political dissatisfaction from it’s Eastern provinces. The annexation of Crimea was a turning point. An end of an assumption of border ‘sanctity’ and the obvious end of the ‘post-cold war consensus’. That consensus had been eroding ever since it was established really. First from Russian Oligarchs and NATO Expansion, than Russian Nationalism and the assault on Russia’s perceived sphere of influence. Ukraine could very well be the start of larger things geo-politically. Dropping oil prices and sanctions obviously hurt Putin, but whether it will translate into something domestically in Russia is hard to say. Political instability lay just beneath the surface there.
The rise of ISIS seems more a case of the shaking out of the political instability running through the middle east. The ‘Arab Spring’ has resulted in many complex results, not all of them predictable, and many shaking out from events years earlier. ISIS is surely the result of the American led Iraqi Invasion. It is also the result of the failure of the Syrian opposition to complete the deposition of the Assad regime. Also the failure of Iraqi governments to create broad, non-sectarian coalitions. Ultimately however ISIS was not, and is not ‘inevitable’ at least in it’s particulars. ‘Something’ was going to happen, and the rise of a more fundamentalist, more extreme regional entity certainly wasn’t entirely unpredictable. The question now is what regional powers and their larger ‘Great Power’ backers do about it. It alters calculus on a number of levels. It puts pressure on Iran and the United States to real accord in their nuclear talks, if only so they can both focus on the more destabilizing element they both oppose. It threatens to spread instability beyond Iraq and Syria into Jordan, Lebanon and further. It complicates the future of the world action in the Region and the domestic politics of various states, not the least of which is the United States.
The Big geopolitical events; Wars, Revolutions, Elections and so forth, often get centered in terms of history, but much else has happened that is of importance. On a technological front there are development in terms of the continued ubiquity of the ‘Smart-phone’, and the emergence of wearable computing. It may be too easy to say for sure, but the spread of ‘watches’ as the model for wearable tech in the future seems to coincide with a failure of Google Glasses.
Space technology both on the private and public front experienced a serious degree of attention and improvement. SpaceX continues to improve their launch technology with an eye towards the cost savings recoverable booster stages could bring, and a decrease in the cost of launching something into orbit puts alot of things into the realm of companies and private individuals that otherwise would not be. There are already ‘satellite’ kits that basically let you send up a little tiny satellite into a decaying orbit that orbits for a couple of days and than decays for the cost of a few thousand dollars. A toy within the grasp of the space enthused wealthy. Cheaper launches will likely mean more countries and more individuals cluttering up Low-Earth Orbit with more satellites doing more things. Also in space news there was the landing of a craft for the first time on an Asteroid, and the historical return to the moon by humanity when the Chinese probe landed. Events like these are positive for space enthusiasts, but also might be the first marks of a more pronounced space-age.
Looking back, I see events good and bad, big and small. I myself set out to read the entirety of the bible, and while I’m not done that task yet, and it will end up taking me well into this year, it’s a commitment I Intend to finish. I aim in the new year to post more often, aiming for weekly on Mondays with supplements as I have something to say. I may do a post soon with regards to predictions of tends I see now and how they might shape out over the year. Such predictions are notable frugle, but it might be interesting to make them and see how I did this time next year.
In any case, lets do this ride around the sun more on time.