Sometimes it feels like New Zealand is too far away from the rest of the world. Australia is 3 hours flying time. The United States is half a day. People bemoan our geographical isolation and some say – justifiably or otherwise – that it is too far to go. And yet, as we have seen across the course of this year, sometimes that distance has not been such a bad thing after all.
2018 started with the world quite rattled by the increasing tension between North Korea and the United States. Fearful that the world might be on the brink of a nuclear incident with global consequences, the year 2018 has in some respects been thankfully free of what basically amounted to “My dick is bigger than your dick” competitions, immature, irrational and irresponsible as they were.
In terms of sport, the XXI Commonwealth Games were held on the Gold Coast in Australia. This is a quadrennial period in which the nations of the British Commonwealth enjoy 10 days of the top sporting entertainment on offer across a range of disciplines. Possibly the only bigger televised event in 2018 was teh F.I.F.A. World Cup in Russia, which France won against Croatia.
Economically the world economy had the wobbles. Rattled by the declaration of a trade war between the United States and China, the world watched as both sides mounted increasing tariffs. Increasing unease over Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen and the associated human rights abuses as well as the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, along with growing concern about climate change has put the petrodollar on the skids.
Politically, 2018 has been dominated by the unpredictability of the United States President Donald Trump and his continued assault on what people understood to be the established international norms – even if not everyone agreed with them. A second big story that has grown over the last few months is the looming chaos of Britain exiting the European Union, about which exactly one month from when the U.K. Parliament has to have a final plan for exiting, no one seems to know what is going on.
One of the major themes of 2018 has been the on-going #MeToo movement aimed at bringing about an end to violence towards women. Exploding through the fabric of the internet during late 2017, fuelled by allegations that Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein had abused women working on his films, #MeToo had become the rallying symbol of females determined that no more women should suffer abuse. It was then – and is still now – a signal to women that it is not only quite okay to come forward and complain about abuse that happened to them, but to also encourage such reports.
It would be remiss to ignore the 100th Anniversary period of World War 1 ending this year. Whilst 100 years old, it has continued to remind people of past wrongs and make us examine why humans go to war, but also to make sure we do not forget the lessons learnt at the expense of 10 million people in 1914-1918.
As 2018 ends it does so on a grim note from Indonesia. In a third world country with a poorly organized, funded and resourced Civil Defence, Indonesia which is a country straddling a large tectonic plate boundary and is riddled with volcanoes has suffered a rare volcanic tsunami. Anak Krakatoa, the cone being constructed in the place of the old Krakatoa volcano which blew itself to bits in 1883, collapsed during intense activity triggering a tsunami that has killed over 400 people. Krakatoa has a long history of such destructive behaviour, yet this seems to have taken the authorities by surprise.
New Zealand needs to be involved in the world and make sure other nations know and remember that we still exist. However it should be pointed out that some days it is a REALLY great thing to be a citizen of an island nation 12 hours flying time from the west coast of the United States, and a whole day’s flying time from the tumultuous E.U.
Being Kiwi has its benefits.