2009 - brave or empty?


Daniel suggested I might write a post looking back over the past year and, maybe, forward to the one ahead. 2009 feels like a year in suspended animation.  

On the economy we came in to the year fearing meltdown. Things have been pretty bad but we end the year with a combination of relief - because the worst did not happen - and anxiety that we face a long slow recovery with the ever present danger of another dip.

In national politics too, many would have doubted Gordon Brown's ability to last another year, while others in Labour's ranks would have hoped for a recovery. The Conservatives might have expected 2009 to be the year they sealed the deal with the public. But despite the ups and downs, and the extremes of the spring elections, the polls have bumped along with the Tories around 40%, Labour around 30% and the Lib Dems around 20%. The question still seems to be; how big will David Cameron's majority be but no one is quite willing to rule out some further twist.

In society the recession has impacted - especially on the young - but we haven't seen the unrest on the streets or the widespread reaction against global finance or consumer capitalism that some predicted or hoped for. The public spending cuts and the unrest and pain they may cause has also been deferred. 

In culture I rely on closer observers than me to comment. The scorn heaped on Damien Hirst's paintings was another needle to pop the hubristic bubble of BritArt, but was there a discernable post credit crunch culture? In sport too this was a gap year before the World Cup in 2010 and the anticipation of the 2012 Games.        

On the environment, Copenhagen failed to deliver but there was just enough momentum from the summit to hope for more in 2010.

For in the end, as is always the case, the significance of 2009 won't be known for some time. If in 2010, one way of another, the political process generates some energy and enthusiasm, if the economy starts to get back on track, if the new processes set in play by Copenhagen start to pay off then maybe we will look back on this as a brave year whose fortitude laid the basis for the highs of 2010.

On the other hand, if Labour crash and burn, if the economy wobbles before being pulled down by the public sector defecit, if the global gaze simply moves away from climate change then 2009 will be remembered as a dead zone - a year best forgotten, of realities denied, challenges ducked, a year memorable only for the level of rage (against MPs, bankers and overpaid celebrities) and the obsession with celebrity trivia.  

What do you think?  Maybe it depends on whether you're a postive thinker.

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