2016: Annus Horribilis?
As a new year rapidly approaches the following Barbados Advocate editorial should force citizens to reflect. – Barbados Underground
When, in November 1992, in a speech marking the fortieth anniversary of her accession to the throne, Her Majesty, Elizabeth II, the Queen of England (and Head of State of Barbados, though not in this capacity) described that year as an “annus horribilis” [horrible year], she was referring to a number of painful events that had taken place that year, especially among her immediate family. Inter alia, one of her sons, Andrew, had, in March, announced his imminent separation from his wife, the Duchess of York; her daughter had been divorced from her husband the following month; and, a mere four days prior, her official residence at Windsor Castle had been extensively damaged by fire. As if these incidents were not sufficiently depressing, Mauritius in East Africa had abolished the monarchy in March and assumed republican status.
The phrase has been frequently and variously used since. Kofi Annan, Secretary General of the United Nations (1987-2006), so described his final year in office and, for the following year, the Spanish newspapers saw cause to apply an identical description to the preceding twelvemonth for events besetting the Royal Family there.
Given the nature of many events that have taken place locally, regionally and further afield, readers should forgive us if we affix a similar epithet to this year as it subsists for its last forty-eight hours or so.
We have witnessed this year the deprivation of some citizens from the supply of an adequate supply of running water for substantial periods. Added to this scarcity, as the year neared its end, there was the alarming dysfunction off the South Coast sewerage system that caused significant dislocation to that area and, it has been alleged by some, fecal matter to be seen in the streets.
Throughout this year too, there has been the niggling issue of economic stringency that has engendered increased taxation with the concomitant rise in the cost of living; the abysmal deterioration of our roads; and the seemingly perpetual downgrading of the nation’s creditworthiness by the international rating agencies.
Regionally, we observed the popular resistance to embracing the establishment of the Caribbean Court of Justice as the repository of final appellate jurisdiction both in Grenada –that made this clear in a referendum and in Antigua & Barbuda –where a similar initiative has been officially stalled. In Trinidad & Tobago and Jamaica, the incidence of homicide has grown exponentially and their nature even more gruesome with each report. Locally, while our murder rate does not approach those of these two jurisdictions and, indeed, some others, the incidence of unlicensed firearms remains a concern.
In Britain, its citizens chose, in a June referendum, to delink from the EU; a result that was as surprising as it was of uncertain consequence for us in these parts. The shocker, however, came in early November in the US where, contrary to all predictions, Mr. Donald Trump won the favour of the Electoral College to become the President-elect of that federation.
That Trump came to office on a manifesto of division, affirmations of ungentlemanly conduct towards certain groups, especially women; the worrying character of some of his recent Cabinet choices, and in light of credible reports from the national intelligence bodies that there was Russian interference in the election, his election appears a global nightmare.
We should note, however, that the year has not been horrible only. Barbados celebrated 50 years of sovereign statehood with a yearlong observance that culminated on November 30 with much pomp and circumstance. Nonetheless, this fleeting moment was never going to suffice to remove the universal pain of 2016.
Have a blessed and healthy 2017, dear reader.