This year and beyond

The year is coming to an end, and this is my last article in 2014. We've read and heard a lot about crimes, illnesses, injustices, the Ukraine crisis, shoot down of Malaysian Air Flight 17 with nearly 300 people on board, abduction of Nigerian girls, Ebola virus and on-going Middle East conflicts.

In fact, there are more happy stories and remarkable progresses than gloomy ones. There have been useful research findings and inventions, such as robotic exoskeletons that can provide support to a ravaged body that needs to heal. There are now about 3 billion people in the world who have Internet access. The FIFA World Cup, which was held in Brazil from June 12 to July 13 and won by Germany, was a success. The Rosetta spacecraft's Philae probe landed on Comet 67P, which was the first time in history. National and international laws have been introduced and collaborations established to combat organised and cyber crime, terrorism and tax evasion (e.g. US FATCA - Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act that requires US citizens, including those who live outside the US, to report their financial accounts held outside the country; and obliges foreign financial institutions to disclose to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) information about their U.S. clients. This increases national tax revenues as it makes it difficult for US taxpayers to conceal assets abroad). There have been local and global meetings, conferences, working parties, fund-raising events and other gatherings addressing social, political, economic and environmental concerns.

Which parts of the world have had so much misfortunes and sadness? Nothing has changed, and those in the underdeveloped countries of Africa, Asia and the Middle East continue to experience abject and relative poverty, instability and insecurity.

Which parts of our planet have joyful residents? Scandinavian nations and Australia are top notchers. The ranking of living conditions by organisations (such as OECD Better Life Index), companies (e.g. Mercer Quality of Life Survey) and media outlets (e.g. The Economist & New York Times) have shown that the most liveable cities are in these happy (developed) countries. The criteria used in this kind of studies and surveys are political and economic stability, health care, welfare services, safety, education, housing, hygiene and environment. No wonder why the underdeveloped and developing countries trail behind significantly.

But, why is it that we see more smiling faces and people laughing in developing nations than in rich (financial) countries? We should include these obvious signs of happiness in the ranking criteria. There should also be considerations on successful community and family life; diversity (age, gender, religion, cultural traditions, physical & mental situations) and how this is dealt with; suicide rate; consumption of anti-depressants; and actions towards making non-urban centres more liveable (appropriate and more services, e.g. public transport, health care centres, etc).

Concerning 'environmental measures?' -- well, this is easier done when you've the political and economic infrastructures. No wonder the developing nations are the worst polluters. On the other hand, I have seen how people in these countries recycle almost everything: houses made of cupboards, broken slippers put together with rubber bands, old belongings passed around and used with care, etc..)

I have learnt a lot from 2014 (and hope you, too) and will endeavour to make 2015 a better year. We can't rely on our governments, employers and charities to achieve this. Let's be wiser and more sensitive in our decision making and actions to ensure that our wellness and happiness don't jeopardise those of others.

I wish you good health, peace, prosperity and happiness during this festive season and throughout 2015. (From my website BRolade Societal Blog - Check out 'Future Perfect Berthier'.)


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