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Posted: December 29, 2012

2012 was a tough year and 2013 could be even tougher

Perceptions by Gerry Warner

The year 2012 is grinding to an ignominious end and I wish I wasn’t so deeply pessimistic. But I am, and there’s no point hiding it. So if you’re still enjoying the year-end fun and festivities please continue and you might be better off skipping this gloomy epistle.

As for my state of mind, and I suspect many others, how can pessimism be avoided in the wake of the Newtown shooting tragedy and the shooting deaths of  two New York firemen that followed only a few days later?  Sure, it’s easy to say that’s the U.S. and we’re different, but are we really that much different? The anti-feminist motivated massacre at the Montreal Ecole Polytechnique in 1989 ranks right up there with the worst of the American school slaughter tragedies and there have been others in Canada and around the world, too.

What’s the likelihood of more such shooting tragedies occurring in 2013? You might as well run a lottery on it because more deaths are that certain.  Hell, let the NRA run it and give an AR-15 semi-automatic to the ‘winner.’ Then there’s the toxic state of American politics. We’re only days away from the so-called “fiscal cliff,” an agreement cobbled together by Republicans and Democrats a year ago to force them to agree on future fiscal policy or a draconian set of spending cuts and tax increases will kick in forcing the world’s biggest economy into another recession.

The clock is ticking on that one, and if the American economy slides into recession again will the Canadian economy be far behind? And then there’s the Euro Zone, already heavily into recession with Germany the only strongly solvent major country left and countries like Greece, Spain, Portugal and Italy in the cross-hairs of economic collapse.

Even the Chinese economy slowed down drastically the past year and stories began to seep out of over-worked Chinese workers jumping out of the windows of giant sweat shop factories churning out electronic toys for technology-obsessed Western consumers.

Meanwhile war, disease and starvation continue to stalk large undeveloped areas of Africa, Asia and South America while we in the developed West rack our brains trying to figure out how to hold on to all our ‘stuff.’ But even in the West there’s great discontent as wealth continues to spiral upwards to the gilded few belonging to the so-called “one per cent” while the middle class grows smaller by the day and thousands, if not millions, face the grim prospect of sliding down the standard of living ladder into a lifestyle full of fear and privation.

Am I depressing you yet? If not, you haven’t been paying attention.

Meanwhile as the world’s climate grows ominously warmer on a yearly basis and the atmosphere fills with carbon dioxide, methane and other greenhouse gases, let me tell you what I fear the most – the dire state of the American body politic.  Like it or not, the U.S. is the fulcrum on which the rest of the world spins. The Excited States of America is the most powerful country in the world financially, militarily, technologically, intellectually and any other adjective you care to use. But in many ways this colossus of a country is one sick puppy. Bipartisanship, once one of the strongest features of American democracy, is dead. With the death of bipartisanship, American politics has slid into gridlock. Witness the 11th hour settlement on the debt ceiling agreement last year. Look at the looming fiscal cliff crisis approaching now. Look at the country’s $16 trillion debt with the majority of it held by Communist China, a country many Americans consider their mortal enemy. And most of all, a country now seriously contemplating using armed battalions to protect its children at school while at the same time fighting one of its many wars to keep the Taliban from killing school children in far off Afghanistan.

Who said irony is dead?

And how many of you realized this? According to an October 2012 Brookings Institute report, more U.S. soldiers died in Afghanistan  this year of suicide than were killed by the Taliban. The latest official totals from Jan. 1 to Sept. 30 were 222 deaths caused by “hostile causes” and 247 by suicide. Even Uncle Sam’s own troops don’t believe in the American Dream anymore.

And where does this leave the Global Village? I hope I never have to find out.

Happy New Year everybody.  Honestly!

Gerry Warner is a retired journalist and a Cranbrook City Councillor. His opinions are his own.

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