As the cordite from the amazing fireworks drifts out over the Thames in London (the fireworks reportedly costing over $1m, according to CNN), the ball drops in Times Square and people stagger to their beds after a night's heavy drinking and celebrating, the rolling news channels are already back to their usual fare: Iraq, the Lebanon, and (in the case of Sky News) reports of last night being the 'worst ever New Year's Eve celebrations' in terms of injuries sustained by revelers. As many as seven 999 calls per minute was just one of the statistics reported on Sky News just now. Many other cities' celebrations had to be cancelled at short notice - including Edinburgh's Hogmanay, for the second time in three years - due to the extreme weather conditions: 80-100mph winds, torrential rain and extremely cold conditions.
Sadly, the 3,000th American casualty in Iraq was announced today on the newswires, with quite a few discussions already revolving around Bush's choice of words during his comments on the announcement (as is to be expected with Dubya).
On the dawn of Saturday morning, Saddam Hussein was hanged as punishment for his crimes against his country's citizens. Unfortunately, with the main defendant now dead (the sentence from the comparatively-small case of 150 murdered Iraqis), trials such as the much larger Anfar trial, Saddam's 1988 campaign against his country's Kurdish population which saw hundreds of thousands die as a result of his actions. Although there are co-defendants, some people have argued that the victims and their families will now be denied their share of the justice they rightly deserve as a result of the group's actions against the country's Kurds. Can people be tried and found guilty posthumously? Hmm.
However, there is some other positive news other than the new year arriving... As of the stroke of midnight today, Bulgaria and Romania are now part of the EU (with the finer points to be finalised when everyone's recovered from their hangovers a little later!) This is great news in my opinion, and having had the opportunity to speak to a few Bulgarians about this, their opinions seem to be, on the whole, quite positive (albeit with a few reservations) - fairly similar to mine. Good to know that we're on the same wavelength.
I really hope that, given all the comments and nods by press and commentators towards a change in policy regarding Iraq and the US Administration's War On Anything Which Looks A Bit Dodgy To Them, Just In Case, some real changes for the better can be made resulting in a better all-round situation for both the countries currently accommodating the UK forces (and other countries, too). Most importantly, we mustn't forget the continuing problems in the world outside of the scope of terrorism - notably those such as the ongoing Darfur crisis, the ever-present conundrum presented to the developing world by AIDS and the devastation inflicted by nature in places such as New Orleans, Indonesia and Thailand. Much of the damage has yet to be cleared or repaired in many cases, and now that the fickle light of the media spotlight has moved on to more short-term news 'events', these long-term problems are receiving much less support from the international community than they justly should be.
It saddens me to see even most of the broadsheet, serious newspaper falling off with their coverage of these kind of issues, and I figure it's unfortunately due to the general public's low boredom threshold, something fiendishly hard to change for the better and notorious for its willingness to forget about the more long-term topics in favour of shallow, pointless news (Branjolina or TomKat / Suri Cruise anyone? Ugh).
I did hear on the news a little earlier that, later today, the Government is to announce plans for raising the legal age for smoking to 18 (from 16) - something I wholeheartedly agree with. At least there's something a little positive to look forward to in the more immediate future, a healthier and longer-living population.
Maybe it's just one of those things as one gets older, and a little more jaded to go along with it, but I for one will be tackling this year with a little more caution than previous years, and a little more concern for events which aren't reaching the front pages or the "latest headlines" of the rolling news channels and web sites in a world ever-thirsty for breaking news at the expense of long-term problems affecting millions. I hope others take a similar stance, and do their bit to help change peoples' expectations and way of thinking when it comes to the state our world is in, and where it's going to be in a few years time (a little prescience goes a long way). I'm not even going to touch that issue of Global Warming, so nobody mention the elephant in the corner, ok? That's a subject for another day.
Do your bit: with some of the money you're almost bound to have received over Christmas, put aside just a few quid or dollars and donate them to one of the charities doing their bit towards the crises all around the world. I donated a few dollars via PayPal to the Darfur Wall project at http://darfurwall.org, and as thanks I got to see my name associated with a few of the numbers (you donate $1 and you can light up a number of your choice on 'the wall', and every dollar after your first $1 lights up a random number too) - and the proceeds go to the worthwhile charities detailed on the site, so you know that your donation is doing its bit to help alleviate the suffering of many less fortunate than us.
So, what should my resolution be for this new year?
My resolution for this New Year's Day is a two-part one, and it's much more realistic than previous years (no more stupid 'I promise to drink less / save more / do my coursework on time / eat less chocolate' hollow statements):
1: raise the awareness of others. Do my very best to get at least one person to learn a little more about some of these woefully under-reported problems that continue to cause true misery and suffering for others - nobody could honestly say they deserve it, so why should we neglect to help them if we can?... and,
2: continue to do what I can in terms of donations to worthwhile causes. Donate regularly and often, and try to vary the list of charities I donate to as much as possible. Put a few more coins in the charity box in the supermarket when I pay for my shopping, and if they don't have a charity box, ask them, 'why not?'
So, head into this next year and make the most of it, enjoy it, savour it, be happy. But, just as importantly, don't forget that all the problems reported by the media throughout 2006... Just like last year's calendar, you might be able to turn the page and forget about it after a little while, but those problems won't go away unless enough people do something about it. We all need to widen our scope a little more, take a broader look at the situation we find ourselves in, and I'm as guilty of this as anyone else. The hardest part of this resolution is making the change in the first place; the moment you realise that all these problems are still here and crying out for your assistance, you've already taken the most difficult step towards change. So go, get to it!
Happy New Year everyone, and good luck.