A happy new year… perhaps
We have now entered 2024 in which many, undoubtedly, have just discovered that it has started no better than how 2023 ended. Voila!
For example, the spectre of violence, especially by the gun, has brazenly stepped with us into the new year. It is no secret that in this Digital Age, those bent on committing digital crimes know it is easy to make a lot of money without expending too much sweat. All they need is a computer or smartphone to carry out their nefarious activities. They will depend also on the gullibility of the naïve, or the greed which lies buried in the hearts of too many of our elderly and those who believe in quick gain without hard work. The desire to expend sweat to achieve is a passing phenomenon among many of our young people. The hard road, the worn paths that their elders took toward success, no longer promises much.
As we enter 2024, the world is in a troubled state. We are now into the third decade of the 21st century and increasingly the world is becoming a dangerous place to live. As I write, the obviously genocidal intent of Israel in Gaza continues unabated. There is no well-thinking citizen in the world who could say that the horrendous attack of Hamas on Israel — which resulted in close to 1,200 of its citizens killed and over 200 taken as hostages — could ever be condoned, accepted, or rationalised. What Hamas did was terror at its worst and was an abominable action on their part.
In saying that, and understanding Israel’s outrage in its response, no well-thinking world citizen could support, condone, accept, or rationalise the brutality of that response against innocent civilians in Gaza. To date, over 8,000 children have been slaughtered among over 21,000 people who have been killed. Indiscriminate bombing of residential and commercial properties continues apace. Yet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed that their task in eliminating Hamas, a dubious task at best, is not complete. So, expect more bloodshed, more destruction of property and more of an unrelenting destruction of the way of life of over two million people fleeing for their lives on a sliver of land not bigger than the parish of St James. The world looks on in helpless disbelief.
Meanwhile, Putin’s brutal war against the Ukrainians continues. The year 2024 will witness the start of the third year of this war and the Russian attempt to annex Ukraine and, perhaps, move on to bordering North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) countries in his vile attempt to revive the lost and discredited Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) of old. The upshot of this is that many more lives will be lost on either side, with no real end to the fighting in sight.
We must view with greater interest the conflicts in Africa, especially the civil war in the Sudan. My suspicion is that the violence around the exploitation of very important minerals will lead to greater bloodshed in 2024 and beyond. We should not forget also China’s ambitions toward the annexation of Taiwan, which, in my view, has only been delayed because of economic and other domestic problems in China.
Another worrying phenomenon that the world will continue to confront in 2024 is the lurch of many countries toward fascism, authoritarianism, or other anti-democratic impulses which now pervade the world. There are many who are prepared to entertain the view that liberal democracy is on life support and that the best way out of their dilemma is to invest faith in dictators and autocrats who can set things right.
History is replete with the horrible logic of that kind of thinking. In the United States, there are many — largely drawn from the Trumpist element of the Republican Party — who are willing to flirt with these anti-democratic feelings, not quite understanding that for which they pray.
In Jamaica and the Caribbean in general we have our own sets of problems. We hope that the squabble between Guyana and Venezuela does not break out into a full-blown war. President of Venezuela Nicolás Maduro has moved troops closer to Guyana in response to what it deems provocation from Guyana allowing a military ship in its waters. But perhaps the most worrying thing that Caribbean people ought to be concerned about is the destabilising influence of the rise of gang violence throughout the region. Jamaica and Trinidad in particular are under siege from rampant gun violence from marauding gangs. There is every indication that this will increase in 2024.
It will take more than the concentrated efforts of individual countries to battle this scourge. Greater alliances and shared experience and resources by Caricom states will be needed. Any such effort will have to be matched by a diligent and alert citizenry who are committed to the task of helping the security forces to keep us all safe in our individual territories.
With these and all that might be on the horizon for 2024, how can I wish you a happy 2024 that is not riven with hypocrisy? I think it is better, and more realistic, that I wish you a productive 2024 in which you use your best talents to improve yourself; where you can find the wisdom and courage to make better decisions consistent with virtues that make for successful living; where in your interpersonal relationships you do not seek to dominate your partner, smother your children, or not pay your worker a wage not consistent with his or her best efforts. I hope it will be a year when you can make a clean break with at least three of the bad habits that have hobbled your way of living and unduly compromised your health for far too long.
And, please, temper your resolutions. Only resolve to do better on what I call the ongoing projects of life. When you really think about it, what we call new is really the continuation of the old, dressed in a different garb, which only requires renewed effort and a greater determination to bring them to completion and fruition. I hope you can have some fun and joy while doing so. Part of this will require a determined effort to avoid toxic social environments. If you are the reason for the toxicity, then do not see the mirror as an enemy. A productive and healthy (body, mind and spirit) 2024 to you, dear reader.
Dr Raulston Nembhard is a priest, social commentator, and author of the books: Finding Peace in the Midst of Life’s Storms; The Self-esteem Guide to a Better Life, and Beyond Petulance: Republican Politics and the Future of America. Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or email@example.com.