End of year thoughts. . .

Well, the new  year is almost upon us, and I can’t say I’m sorry, because 2012 has been an annus horribilis for so many reasons.

The year began with The Costa Concordia disaster, and the loss of thirty innocent lives, and ended with the massacre of twenty-six innocents in Newtown Connecticut. Both tragedies were, arguably, preventable, but somehow I think that only the Costa Concordia disaster will see any meaningful measures taken to prevent a recurrence.

Some say the answer to the Newtown massacre is a ban on handguns, but I just don’t know.

Irrespective of how unfair, unconstitutional, and undemocratic, the lobbying power of the NRA is, I don’t see how amending The Constitution to deny ordinary decent and law-abiding people the right to defend themselves against cranks and lunatics, can possibly bring an end to such tragedies.

Here in the UK we have no fundamental or constitutional right to bear arms. Following the Hungerford massacre of 1987 semi-automatic centre-fire cartridge rifles were banned, weapon sales strictly limited, and gun licenses equally-strictly controlled, and yet we still saw the horrific tragedy of The Dunblane Primary School massacre just nine years later. This was followed by another amendment to the firearms act in 1997, which effectively made owning firearms illegal in The UK, and yet, thirteen years after that, we saw a lone gunman in Cumbria kill twelve people before turning the gun on himself.

I just don’t have the answers, and I’m not sure that anybody else does. All I do know is that my heart goes out to all those parents, family members, and neighbours who have been so devastated by such a wholly evil and terrible event.

On a lighter, and yet still serious, note; 2012 saw the end of freedom of speech in The U.K.

It began with a racist insult, allegedly, made by John Terry, a former England soccer captain, to an opponent during a match, and ended with the English Football Association overruling a ‘not guilty’ court ruling, and effectively banning any comment that might imply or include some sort of racist slur or insult.

On this I have to agree with Voltaire. Freedom of speech is a fundamental right in any civilized society, irrespective of the diatribe spoken and the apparent ignorance of the speaker. When we start to erode that fundamental right, we cause all manner of problems down the line.

Like many others, I have no time for any form of racism, or for the man in question and his alleged behaviour, but when organisations overrule the courts of the land, irrespective of the weasel words used to justify that process, they place us and them on a very slippery slope.

Freedom of speech is fundamental to democracy, and the rule of law is the cornerstone of that democracy. Did we learn nothing from The McCarthy era, or from all of those Warsaw Pact police states?

On a personal note, 2012 was a very sad time for my own family. During the year we lost three of our five Burmese cats, and now the house feels very empty without them. Never let anyone tell you that pets don’t give and generate love, and never let anyone tell you that their passing causes anything other than acute heartache and pain. We will miss Monty and Fred and Suki very much, and we will always remember how their living so enriched our home, our family, and our lives.

But on to 2013. The year during which I will become the world’s number one best-selling author, the year during which my ship comes in, the year during which. . . well, who can tell, but I’m sure it won’t be as sad and as bad for me as 2012 has been.

Because that is the true beauty of any New Year: It gives us all hope. It rekindles the flame of aspiration, and it offers each of us a new beginning and a fresh start.

And so I wish each of you a Very Happy Christmas, and a New Year filled with all that you wish for yourselves.

Have a good one.

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