Here begins our journey back through the #unforgettableyear of 2020…
The drone-strike assassination of Qassem Soleimani on January 3rd, 2020 seems a long time ago now, but to our U.S. columnist Bull Moose it suggested a new phase in U.S. involvement in the Middle East. Who knows what would have happened in that region during an election year, if a certain respiratory pathogen hadn’t risen to such prominence.
January’s Musician of the Month Hilary Woods also appears to be speaking of a different age, when live music was still to be found in Ireland.
In October last, I was at a Russian Circles gig in Galway. It gave me a much needed stark reminder of the power of live sound: washing over me, enveloping, reverberating my insides, shaking me out of an internal slumber. Requiring a medium to travel, the body is a conductor for sound. Filtering vibrations moving through it. Sound percolating in time through tissue and sinew, connecting, evading, resonating, confronting, decoding, making pliable.
I emerged from the show a renewed being: sensorially realigned, perceiving things afresh, and happy I made the effort to go. As Rumi says, ‘whatever purifies you is the right path’.
Elsewhere Billy O’Hanluain seemed to have been preparing us for the joys of working from home, surrounding by unfinished tasks. ‘Procrastination is a very cunning mistress.’ he wrote, ‘She masquerades so expertly at being a muse; seducing me with an ever expanding array of tantalizing tasks that acquire greater urgency with her every whisper and sensual suggestion.’
And if it was a form of escapism you were after last January, Desmond O’Brien’s account of his psilocybin treatment for depression and anxiety would have been the best medicine. During the trip he had the unmistakable feeling that love is the glue holding us together.
On a less optimistic note, Frank Armstrong explored how increasing news fatigue had been orchestrated by the likes of Steve Bannon, who targeted followers of Jordan Peterson, who has earned the dubious distinction of being the first internet intellectual.
Among the most important stories we published last year was Fellipe Lopes’s heart-rending account of the rapidly deteriorating conditions for refugees in Camp Moria, Lesbos in Greece. He described murder and rape, but also a strong sense of community.
Meanwhile, featured artist Keshet Zur aspired to be a photographer but felt heartbrake in the digital era, now she engages with nature and social inclusion through Expressive Art Therapy.
Bob Quinn’s memoir continued with an account from the 1950s of teaching English in Pforzheim, Germany, where a student Trudie falls for his teaching charms
David Langwallner also continued his public intellectual series with an account of the life and times of Noam Chomsky, with reference to his works Manufacturing Consent, Public Intellectual, Media Control, Henry Kissinger, George Orwell.
Next there was Frank Armstrong’s Late Risers’ Manifesto 2020, in which he quoted the late great David Graeber to the effect that ‘The real question is how to ratchet down a bit more toward a society where people can live more by working less.’ Graeber further opined that the non-working poor may be ‘pioneers of a new economic order that would not share our current one’s penchant for self-annihilation.’
In fiction, Siberian Blue by Mick Sobyanin includes childhood memories of Prokopyevsk, Siberia inside the Soviet Union, dating from 1974, including insights into prevailing Russian attitudes towards Volga Germans.
Lastly we had a satirical poem from the irrepressible Kevin Higgins irreverently portraying the grant application process.