2014 is almost at a close, but there is a good chance that in the next two months, something might happen that will change how we think of the year. And yet, I will go out on a limb and talk about 2014 right now, because actually 2014 has been happening for a while. 2014 started in 2011, in Tunisia, when protests set off the Arab Spring, and in late 2013 in The Ukraine, when protests set off Ukraine's rebellion against Russian interference.
There is a lot of places where you can read about the gradual change of the protest movement of the Arab Spring into the genocidal civil war that is now taking place in Syria and Iraq, and how the protest movement in the Ukraine turned into a guerrilla war on the Ukraine/Russia border. In fact, it would be pretty hard not to know about these things, as they have been the largest world news stories of the past years. But I want to talk about them from the viewpoint of my own ignorance: because when both stories started, it seemed to be about situations that I was familiar with. The Arab Spring was started by underemployed but overeducated, computer-savvy and and cosmopolitan young people. Somehow, in between Tunisia and Syria, what turned from a revolution of people liked me turned into an attempt by the most reactionary, brutal and backward elements of society to reassert control. I can't understand why this happened, from my 21st century American perspective. The situation in the Ukraine is a bit less depressing, but the initial thrill that young people could effect change through the power of the internet and rejecting authoritarian oligarchies ha faded away, as the two sides settle down into what is a traditional ethnic feud over rusty old towns.
And having talked about serious foreign affairs for a bit, let me toss in a piece of geek culture: all of this is to say that The Future Refused to Change. I was perhaps spoiled by my early experiences with the twenty first century, an era where I assumed that information and communication would trump everything else. It takes 200 milliseconds for data to get to the other side of the word, but social change crawls along, perhaps never to arrive. The world is still in the middle, and I don't know how long it will take things to change. This is also the year I turn 35: given by classical three score year and ten, if things haven't changed by this point, there is a good chance I will still be seeing this sloppy juggling act when it is time to shake off my mortal coil. Perhaps this is a bit selfish of me, to regret that I might have to leave the party just as the fun begins. As much as it is about the drudgery of a world repeating its mistakes, my regret that I might never see the 21st century rightfully get started is about the fact that my anticipation will never be satisfied.
This is, of course, just my viewpoint. One that I am saving up for the future, so people can laugh at me for failing to see 2014 as the turning point it was. And perhaps it just seems like it is in the middle because it always seems we are in the middle. A more thorough or creative look at the year's events might show that things are indeed changing. But for me now, it seems like 2014 is just another step on a treadmill that won't stop moving.