The good and the bad of a “13th” year

By Patrick Hunter Tuesday December 24 2013 in Opinion
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I am not one who is guided by superstitions. That doesn’t mean that I don’t respond to superstitions. For example, I don’t have a problem with Friday the 13th. I don’t lock myself away or take any specific precautions. But, as we are about to put 2013 into the history books, one cannot help but look back and wonder: Were all these happenings – strange phenomena – a by-product of a “13th” year, or just the course of the natural evolution of things?


The last time we had a “13th” was, of course, 1913. I wasn’t around then (believe me), nor were most of you. From the history books, we are told that we were on the verge of the First World War. Ominous.


We hope that the turmoil that was a part of 2013 is not portent of a similar international crisis. We can console ourselves with the fact that every year has its ups and downs – its bad breaks and disasters. So, in theory, nothing bad that happened this year should be seen as the effect of a “13th” year. After all, the Rob Ford explosion didn’t begin this year – that started when he was elected – and, Heaven forbid, it may not have culminated yet. We will be taking some of this into 2014 as well.


So, over the year, many of the problems that have surfaced have been the result of paths taken before 2013 began. In the Middle East, Syria’s internal war has exploded to a point that threatens its own destruction and the butcher of Damascus continues to hold on to power rather that conceding to the lack of confidence in his leadership by stepping down. Today, over two million of his people have been forced to flee to neighbouring countries where the United Nations is pleading for assistance to provide for these refugees.


Egypt had elections after the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak, a product of the so-called Arab Spring. The elected president proved to be as much a dictator and ignorer of his people’s wishes and, with the help of the military, he was removed and is now awaiting trial. The country is still in transition. So are others in the region that saw changes as a result of the Arab Spring revolts.


The Central African Republic (CAR) has recently erupted into seemingly baseless massacres. Once again (and I know that this may be simplistic) the troubling aspect of religions – Christianity versus Islam – seems to be at the core of the dispute. There were similar activities in Nigeria recently, but not to the depth that is apparent in the CAR.


Weather and climate have been a bit on the strange side this year. Thank goodness there were no more Tsunamis, but flooding, unusual temperatures and odd storms have made their mark, displacing thousands. There was snow on the Sphinx in Egypt. And how about the formation of a new island near Pakistan?


Closer to home, we have been watching as the bloom continues to fade from President Obama. Personally, he still cuts a fine figure, but his message – his appeal – pretty much warrants a shrug. His singularly most compelling achievement, Obamacare, was on the verge of “crashing and burning”. His wide use of drones has overtaken his Nobel Peace Prize intentions. There is very little, if anything, that one can point to that he did to advance the equality of African-Americans specifically.


And, here at home, the eruption of the Senate scandal has become one of the latest blocks in the decline and imminent departure of Stephen Harper and his government.


One bright spark, a plus for the 13th year, is the rise of female premiers. Hey, I’m not saying they are all great – Madame Marois in Quebec has me puzzled. Why would she choose to introduce a controversial charter that has the capacity to further divide her province, unless she has an ulterior motive – that of further dividing her province?


So, in the general scheme and evolution of things, the 13th year has not necessarily been any more of a disaster than previous years. Some of what has transpired will or may trigger difficulties or they may be halted in time to avert disaster.


One of the significant events of this 13th year is that with the recent transition of Nelson Mandela, there were opportunities to look at the whole question of leadership. What are some of the qualities of a leader that we should seek out?


We cannot look for perfection, but we can look for genuine action. How one lives can go a long way in determining how one influences. I am no great fan of the Roman Catholic Church, or any church for that matter, but one has to sit up and take notice of Pope Francis’ refreshing approach to the leadership of his church. That has some positive significance and it happened in the 13th year. Take heart!


My best wishes to you and your family for a meaningful holiday period.

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