It is difficult to look forward to the coming year, beginning as it does with the killings at Charlie Hebdo. I have an ominous feeling about what might happen in the aftermath of these events. Will 2015 be another year filled with tensions, distasters, death and grief?
Of course it will. Because these are a constant part of the world. And unfortunately also the part that we remember. What will be my enduring memories of 2014?
I will remember two Malaysian airplanes, one that vanished and another that was shot out of the sky. I will remember Russian tanks in Ukraine. I will remember the deadly trek of Ebola across west Africa and ISIS spreading terror in the middle east. Perhaps I will remember another chapter in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as operation Protective Edge decimated over 17 000 homes and killed more than 2000 people. I will surely remember 200 Nigerian girls that were taken and not returned, and the unarmed black men shot dead by police in the US.
I can search my memories and find little to make me think 2014 was a good year. Not because good things did not happen but because crises are the storm winds that shake the world. There is the occasional heartwarming story of a dog rescued from the street, but those are not the stories that will define the year any more than a story of a single dog dying will.
But good things did happen in the world last year. On his blog Bill Gates reminds us of several medical advances in 2014. Not least that last year saw more 5th birthdays than ever before. Child mortality rates keep falling and since 2001 the world has saved the lives of 13.6 million children. The problem is that people not dying is not a memorable event. It is just the world as it should be. For it to be news it needs to be people surviving against the odds. Which usually means that there needs to be a crisis for them to survive. And what we remember are the dead rather than the living.
I guess this is impossible to change. But lets try to remember those that survived Ebola because of the brave medical staff. Let’s remember the 50 000 Euros of Nobel Peace prize money that Malala Yousafzai donated to reconstruct schools in Palestine. Let’s remember that the hashtags #BringBackOurGirls and #BlackLivesMatter spread around the world because we do care about others, even if they are far away or have another skin colour.
And as 2015 begins with trauma, let’s mourn the 17 dead in Paris and the 2000 possibly killed by Boko Haram in Nigeria. But let’s also remember the hostages that survived because the Muslim store assistant that hid them and the worldwide show of sympathy as #JeSuisCharlie went viral. Let’s have the strength to face what comes with bravery and kindness instead of fear and hatred. Let’s unite against those that wish to tear us apart, because in the end there is more that unites us than divides us.