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Some ‘maturer’ readers in the UK may remember a satire show on television in the 1960s. That Was the Week That Was, often known as TWTWTW or TW3, presented the news of the week as songs and sketches. This is TWTYTW and what a year it was. A brief look at some memorable events that for many people would be forgotten provides a superb canvas for a really messy picture.

Where to start? Perhaps there is no better day than 6 January when Trump supporters attacked and occupied the Capitol in Washington DC, disrupting certification of the presidential election, forcing people to either evacuate or barricade themselves in. Five people died during the riot, so that it was classified domestic terrorism. The most memorable picture was of QAnon supporter Jake Angeli wearing a bearskin headdress topped with buffalo horns, red, white and blue face paint, shirtless and wielding a spear occupying the speaker’s dais. The world must have shaken with fear or laughter at the thought that there was the new speaker when a coup d’état put Trump back in the White House. Not that he had left by then; in fact was in the presidential comfy armchair with a Big Mac and fries, lots of popcorn and a Coca Cola excitedly watching his new senators and congressmen and women streaming in over the perimeter walls. Joe Biden was inaugurated two weeks later anyway.

February was overwhelmed by Covid-19 news; however a few newsmakers appear to have begun to come out of hibernation about then as over two and a half million people had died with over one hundred million cases worldwide. Some national leaders were beginning to say we should take it seriously. Others obviously had still not had their political ‘breakfast’ or simply did not wake up. Others did not really care. Indeed one was far too busy increasing the carbon footprint by having the Amazon forests cleared and burned. On the subject of awake, in the Anglophone world the word ‘woke’ received a great deal of publicity. It is an adjective that originated in African-American English meaning ‘alert to racial prejudice and discrimination’ that some commentators consider an offensive term with negative associations to those who promote positive political ideas about identity and race. In other words, people who think may find themselves locked up for a very long time. That is food for thought, but be warned not to hold an opinion on it.

On 6 March, Pope Francis met Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in Iraq. They sat together and talked. So let’s move on… The Ever Given, amongst the largest container ships worldwide, ran aground blocking the Suez Canal. It was stuck for six days with claims of global trade blocked, perhaps, perhaps not; there are plenty of other sea routes after all. March was a bit of a washout, so let’s move on quickly again.

15 April was when a team of Chinese and American scientists announced successful injection of human stem cells into the embryos of monkeys, creating chimera embryos at the Salk Institute in San Diego, California. Political parties in several countries are allegedly watching developments and considering recruiting future members to put up for election. On 25 Albania held parliamentary elections, just about as exciting as the pope and ayatollah the previous month. April was hardly overwhelming, time to move on again.

Probably the most significant, world changing event of the year happened between 18 and 22 May. The Eurovision Song Contest 2021 in Rotterdam, after cancellation of the 2020 contest because of the pandemic, was won by Italy’s Måneskin with the song ‘Zitti e buoni’. The world will never be the same again since that victory. So let’s move on yet again, perhaps a bit quicker this time. 29 May, Chelsea beat Manchester City 1–0 to win the UEFA Champions League. The fact that I am a Chelsea supporter has nothing to do with its enormous international and world changing significance, now has it? Those events have made their impression on the world as massive as the equivalent of a flea on a bull African elephant.

During June various elections took place, Armenia, Mongolia and Israel. Apart from Binyamin Netanyahu losing office, none of that took precedence over the UEFA Euros 2020 that ran until July. Being summer and Covid-19 dominating the news, most of the month went unnoticed. June was probably wearing a mask anyway, so looked like any other month.

11 July, Italy beat England on penalties in the Euro 2021 final at Wembley Stadium. The moaning, wailing and excuse making of English football fans is gradually dying down. Having won two world changing events, Italy considers itself to be one of the world’s great powers. Most people don’t. 23 July the 2020 Olympics began in Tokyo; originally scheduled for July into August 2020, but postponed due to the pandemic. They were almost as overwhelmingly as world changing as the Eurovision Song Contest and Euro final, although some of the winners of medals were far more contentious. There were various elections around the world; I guess we find ourselves moving on again.

On 8 August the Olympics finished with a few memorable controversies that I appear to have forgotten since. Some controversies are so forgettable. The USA and friends pulled out of Afghanistan trying to get a ‘job done’ message across before the Taliban had completely taken over. Analysts still have some doubts about what those allies said. There were some more elections in some countries, a nondescript month yet again; so time to move on. Charlie Watts, Rolling Stones drummer, died on 24 August, a great loss to the rock music world. Keith Richards continues to be a first class guitarist, then again he is clearly mummified after decades of substance abuse, the other last remaining Stone, Mick Jagger continues to cavort around on stage and still has not had singing lessons.

September was a bit livelier. On the first day of the month Romania began to have a political crisis, 5 September Guinea had a coup d’état, later on the 15th Argentina had a political crisis then on 7 September El Salvador became the first country to accept Bitcoin as an official currency. There were elections; 13th Norway, 19th in Russia, 20th in Canada, 25th Iceland and 26th Germany. Russia was a foregone conclusion, Canada saw Trudeau holding power with reduced support but the other three went into coalition negotiations, setting the scene for possible fragile governments and some entertainment for politics watchers in the near future. All have since gone into coalitions; we shall see… Meanwhile Australia pulled the plug on its nuclear submarine deal with France, then went into a trilateral security pact with the UK and USA intended to counter the influence of China. Macron and Turnbull have since been hurling accusations and insults at each other. On the 16 September the earliest evidence of human beings making clothes discovered from bone tools 100,000 years old found at the Contrebandiers Cave in Morocco was announced. Several designer clothes makers are competing for the franchise to continue production of prehistoric outfits.

October started quite inauspiciously with the Czech Republic, Uzbekistan and Japan having elections then Sebastian Kurz resigned as Chancellor of Austria when a corruption probe against him began. He vanished into some kind of hospital. Perhaps he is setting a precedent for other resigning or dismissed heads of state worldwide. As we have seen and will undoubtedly see again, there are more than a few candidates for a particular kind of health establishment everywhere. On 4 October there was a global outage of Facebook and its apps, including Instagram and WhatsApp, which lasted six hours. People either sighed with relief or had nervous breakdowns within the first 30 seconds of not being able to exchange nonsense and conspiracy theories to a largely disinterest world that are just for FB junkies who really do not care what is on social media, just have to be online. At the end of the month COP26 began in Glasgow after a year long delay due to the pandemic, making the inevitable all the more inevitable on the basis of time does not wait for anybody, not even very important people, at least those who think they are, but more of that next month.

On 12 November Cop26 finished in ignominy. It was actually held in Glasgow, but it would have probably gone down to the line and lost against itself anywhere. Had it been held in a place called Ignominy it would be appropriate, but Cape Disappointment, the headland on the Pacific coast on southwest corner of Washington State in the USA, may have been just as appropriate. The host was a total embarrassment, but that was October, although he reappeared toward the end in November to say more nothing making any sense to add to what he had said that made no sense last month. Activists and environmental organisations walked out, the conference chairman broke into tears and that was that. Roll on COP27 when Egypt is hosting the get together but it is anticipated that because it is already too late and simply getting later interest may have waned. Prince William, aka the Duke of Cambridge, saluted marching veterans during the Remembrance Sunday ceremony in London, which marked 103 years since the end of WW1. Veterans of that war are as scarce as hens’ teeth so now they rely on veterans of WW2 that we know England alone won against the French, well one might believe it given the news later this month. So, let’s move on again. Poor Germany, the real enemy both times round, scarcely got a mention. Migrants trying to cross the border between Belarus and Poland became the latest political pawns in an attempted standoff against the EU. At least until the Belarusian president, Alyaksandr Lukashenka, better known as Alexander Lukashenko on this side of the border, called it all off. After forest fires back in the year, there were massive floods in lots of places, the ones in the Northern Hemisphere rich countries where generally less lives are lost made the bigger news. Germany finally had a coalition government. Abba’s first album of new material in 40 years, ‘Voyage’, topped charts. Grandparents worldwide were trying hard to explain who and what they are, perhaps more pertinently what they were. It was a busy month; at least it looked busy although it is not certain much was achieved.

1 December brought us the news that French President Emmanuel Macron had privately referred to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson as a clown. The latter is not news, simply well known. The real news was overlooked by some people. What is notable is that Macron, a politician after all, told the truth! As we might well say here in France ‘Nous devrions lever nos chapeaux à Mr Macron.’ Now we have Partygate and Wallpapergate bubbling over nicely in London, it also looks increasingly likely that Liegate might just give the present prime minister some time off to look after his newborn daughter. It is just a little way into December, but we are hoping this month will be quiet. That is to say, except the normal complaints about prices higher than last year when accumulating excessive Christmas supplies, presents and making the list of repeats and old films on television to fall asleep in front of. Then, lest we forget, there will be the festival of moaning and groaning about the cost of Christmas and having put on a bit (read more than a lot) of weight, the price of eating too much and flopping down in front of sleep inducing television at the end of the month to welcome in 2022. We hope it will, at the very least, be a far more entertaining year than 2021.

It seems that a person of the year is usually called for in such a review. This time it seems that it might be the most irritating person for a change. The two leading candidates worldwide are both in the UK. There are plenty of others, but they were simply not irritating enough. Trump is beyond irritating, but his lawyer Rudy Giuliani got close, Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro was quite bad, but not bad enough, and French presidential candidate Éric Zemmour is just not well known enough to irritate enough people. It grieves me a little that one of my two leading contenders, a certain 19 century throwback called Jacob Rees-Mogg in the Westminster parliament, did not quite irritate enough. He is almost a world class irritant.

If I may refer back to the beginning and TWTWTW that I rendered into TWTYTW; it was hosted by journalist, comedian and writer David Frost. He died, perhaps even fortunately under present circumstances, in 2013. His namesake is now the UK government’s Brexit man with the meaningless political position of Minister of State at the Cabinet Office, whose task, it appears, is to make threats that nobody takes seriously, but his manners seem to be less than polite. One of the arguments for Brexit was that there were unelected bureaucrats in Brussels saying what the UK could or could not do. Frost was a civil servant who became part of the post referendum negotiating team and with the prime minister who elevated him to the House of Lords, then took him into the Cabinet, never once standing for any manner of election, who tries to tell Brussels what to do. The irony is sometimes breathtaking. However, he is not taken too seriously, so with the end of the year, the festive season and the cold, he has been referred to as Frosty the No Man, a bit like the two famous 1950 versions of the Frosty the Snowman song by Gene Autrey and Jimmy Durante. As an irritant the present Frosty stands head and shoulders above all other challengers, including his boss who, to repeat a highlight of the passing year, the French president nominated a clown.

That Was The Year That Was! We expect another round of non-news making farces and trivial political events with a few interesting highlights like 6 January 2021 to give us something different in 2022. As they say: coming your way soon.

Image by Polina Kovaleva on Pexels.

Brian Milne
A Social anthropologist who specialises in the human rights of children. In practice Brian Milne has worked on the street with 'street children', child labour, young migrants, young people with HIV and AIDS. Brian’s work has taken him to around 40 countries, most of them developing nations; at least four of them have been in a state of conflict or war, thus taking him to the front line in two. Brian’s theoretical work began with migration; working on, written and publishing on citizenship and generally best known as an 'expert' on the human rights of children. Brian has a broad knowledge of human and civil rights for all ages, environmental issues and has been politically active most of his life. An internationalist and supporter of the principle of European federalisation.

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