WORLD INTHAVAARAM, 2021-End
About: the world this week, 26 December to 1 January 2022, the end of 2021 -what it did to us and the beginning of a brand new year, 2022 — new stories to tell.
The Ghislaine Maxwell -Jeffrey Epstein story occupied the best spots and was massaged well in the news of the world. In one of the most high-profile convictions of a woman for enabling a sex trafficking ring, Ghislaine Maxwell, the 60 years old daughter of disgraced British media tycoon Robert Maxwell, was found guilty of grooming and trafficking girls for pedophile sex offender Jeffrey Epstein to savour. Epstein, killed himself in 2019 while in jail awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges himself.
The pair enticed girls as young as 14 to engage in ‘so-called massages’, in which sex abuse came to be taught as ‘casual and normal’, with vulnerable victims showered with money and gifts. One kind of Sex Education?
The conviction was a major victory for the more than 100 accusers who fought for over a decade to have Epstein and his co-conspirators face criminal charges.
Ghislaine probably came to this level of ‘moral corruption’ due to a dysfunctional childhood, physical and verbal abuse by her father, who in 1991 vanished from the deck of his private Yacht, Lady Ghislaine (named after her), off the Canary Islands. His body was later found floating in the sea. Soon it came out that Robert Maxwell had raided the Mirror Group’s Pension Fund of GBP 440 million as part of a scheme to artificially inflate the company’s share price at the expense of his employees. Robert Maxwell had risen from extreme poverty in a Czechoslovak Jewish settlement and most of his family was murdered in the Holocaust. He went on to become a British Army war hero, then an academic publishing magnate, a Labour Member of Parliament, and eventually owner of the Daily Mirror, one of the United Kingdom’s biggest-selling newspapers.
Ghislaine Maxwell could face about 65 years in jail and the sentence is yet to be pronounced.
Australia and England are playing for the Ashes Cup in Australia, and this week the land of cricketing great Don Bradman bowled a new hero. Test debutant Scott Boland starred his name in the record books becoming an instant hero in Australian cricket with an astonishing six-wicket haul that wrapped up the Ashes on day three of the third test in Melbourne this week. Plucked from obscurity when called up by selectors on Christmas Eve, the 32 years old Victoria paceman finished with outrageous innings figures of 6 wickets for 7 seven runs in 4 overs, sending his home crowd at the Melbourne Cricket Ground into a joyous tizzy.
Along the way he matched the 19-ball record for the fastest five-wicket haul in tests shared by England’s Stuart Broad at the 2015 Ashes, and Australia’s Ernie Toshack in 1947.
Boland is only the second indigenous Australian to play Test Match Cricket after Jason Gillespie. Boland grew up unaware of his Indigenous heritage, which includes links to the Gulidjan people, an Aboriginal tribe from the western part of his home state of Victoria.
Australia now take an unassailable lead in the five match series, that spills over to the new year 2022.
India in Precaution Mode
While the World went ‘oo-la-la’ over booster shots of the COVID19 Vaccine, India calmly announced a measured plan to tackle the new variant. For the first time since the pandemic, vaccinations for children is set to begin and those in the age between 15 & 18 will get their first shot from 3rd January 2022 onwards. Healthcare and frontline workers will get a ‘precautionary dose’ beginning from the 10th January 2022, and those over 60 years with co-morbidities can roll up their sleeves also from the 10th January.
I like that new variant term, ‘precautionary dose’ that ‘boosts’ your immunity, and there’s no Greek in it.
The End of The Year — The Year that Was
Over the past year 2021, we have been overwhelmed by a quick spreading, hydra headed pandemic that refuses to die down. And we still do not know how it all began — the origins-in China. We spent the year challenging the Greek Alphabet, to the very end, on finding names to name.
We have been flooded with a deluge of water from never-ending rains and a hurricane of storms, and cooked-on another extreme-by fires flaring up in one country after another. The smoke was hard to miss. Climate change was written all over the land, the seas, and the sky. We even tried to find a way to hold the Tempest with a Hamlet’ian ‘to do or not to do’ in a summit in Glasgow and tried to declare things are being controlled-though the action was missing. Blah, blah, blah?
We were struck by the chaotic exit of the United States and allied countries from Afghanistan leaving it to the gun-wearing, long beard-wallahs to just walk-in and take-over the country. Conquering never looked so easy. And the Taliban kept the girls out of school and from an uplifting education. They promised a better version of themselves, but the old stripes were unmistakable and hard to change.
The last remains of dissent in Russia was locked-out, locked down -and maybe knocked off -with opposition politician Alexei Navalny sent to a penal colony prison, when he dared to return home after recovering from a ’state of poisoning’. Russia’s appetite for coercion was on full display with a troop build-up near Ukraine, complemented by a sophisticated disinformation campaign that questioned Ukraine’s very right to exist.
One the year, we saw new leaders take over: in the USA it was Joe Biden from Donald Trump, in Israel Naftali Bennett from Benjamin Netanyahu, and in Germany Olaf Scholz from Angela Merkel, among others. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Boris Johnson cruised along in the United Kingdom and made one more baby during the year, while Vladimir Putin forged himself in iron and Xi Jinping built himself into a China Wall. He tried crossing the Himalayan Wall and ran into India’s 56 inch-chest Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Now both sides are watching their boundaries…and their chests of armoury.
In Myanmar, winning the Nobel Peace Prize wasn’t enough to keep its civilian Leader Aung San Sui Kyi in democratic power, and was shot out by a military junta sending the prize winner peacefully to count bars in jail. The Burma teak is being tested like never before.
In Japan, a Princess married a commoner giving up her royal titles to cherish her love, and left the land of the Rising Sun to rise elsewhere. In France, Josephine Baker a professional entertainer famous for the banana belt skirt dance and a World War -II spy was inducted in the Pantheon in Paris — the highest honour in France. And she became the first black superwoman in this region.
In Space, USA’s NASA flew a helicopter called Ingenuity on Mars in a first of its kind in another Planet, after successfully landing its Perseverance Rover on Mars. And thrillingly repeated the helicopter flying feat many times over.
2021 was the year when the full and far-reaching impact of social media, its misappropriation and how or whether it could be tamed, was actually felt. Facebook learn it the hard way and tried damage control by ‘meta’morphosing itself in to a new name.
India won the Miss Universe Title after 21 long years and suddenly India, despite its multiple contradictions, showed its beauty spots, again. India’s Prime Minster (PM) withdraw a path-breaking New Farm Laws threesome after almost a year of incessant meaningless agitation by opponents to change. He stepped back, acknowledging failure to convincingly explain the ‘shooting’ benefits to old-habits rooted farmers. During the year India’s PM has gone about execution and implementation in a quiet, tireless, fast-paced manner, and the results are showing in all States he has touched. He would easily be My Person of the Year.
India’s first ever Chief of Defence Staff was martyred in an unbelievable peace-time Helicopter crash, taking with him some of the finest Officers of the country. India was shocked beyond tears and a Nation rose in unison to pay a deserving tribute. I expect the reasons of the crash to be found during 2022.
In the Tokyo Olympics 2020 held in Japan after a pandemic delayed and modified start in 2021, India did surprisingly well, the best in over four decades, which brought cheers to a billion hearts. India won 7 medals, 1 Gold, 2 Silver, and 4 Bronze: its richest ever haul and finest performance of all time. Notable was in Hockey, where India got its stick work together and was back to winning ways after a 41 year medal drought: they won a bronze medal.
In the Paralympic Games that followed, India did even better with 19 medals (5 Gold, 8 Silver, and 6 Bronze)and — the highest in its history.
It is ‘No time to die’ sang Billie Eilish in the James Bond movie of the year, and ABBA make a comeback, while Britney Spears got her freedom back after years of a strangulating conservatorship. Oops, we hope to see her sing one more time. Olivia Rodrigo climbed the music charts with a new ‘Driving Licence’, while Yohani & Satheeshan’s, ‘Manike Mahge Highe’ and Pawan Ch & Mangli’s, ‘Saranga Dariya’ stole my heart.
Space became closer to Earth as people began flying to the edge of Space and back in double quick time. A Virgin start was followed by Amazon and then SpaceX.
While all this was happening, America continued to kill itself in the numerous gun-shooting incidents sprayed through the year.
2021 appears to have been a year of warnings, about our relationships with technology, the planet, and those who govern us, whether elected or self-appointed.
Somehow, we thought that the year 2021 will be better than the year 2020. Well, almost. But I’m hoping 2022 will be ‘the bridge over troubled waters’ enabling us to cross over to doing all the great things we wanted to do over the past two years. We are wiser and like the spider endlessly building its web despite severe ‘tearing’ setbacks, we move on to building stronger. We need to keep at it.
I came across this Donella Meadows — a Systems Thinker — quote while reading Kate Raworth’s Doughnut Economics, “Let’s face it, the universe is messy. It is nonlinear, turbulent, and chaotic. It is dynamic. It spends its time in transient behaviour on its way to somewhere else, not in mathematically neat equilibria. It self-organizes and evolves. It creates diversity, not uniformity. That’s what makes the world interesting, that’s what makes it beautiful, and that’s what makes it work”.
We have arrived here riding on the shoulders of our forefathers — from the hunter-gatherer mode to today’s variegated lifestyles. We need to grow the bone and muscle in our frames and shoulders for future generations, to climb upon. Let’s be mindful and collaborate with one another to uplift mankind and life on Earth. 2022 may not be any easier and could bring with it all kinds of struggles, old and new, and we need to be ready — with our minds — to handle it. That’s the superpower all of us have!
Happy New Year 2022.
More delightful ‘week stories’ coming up in the year ahead. Live with World Inthavaaram.