My year was topped and tailed by quality time with mother. In January I spent a week in Virginia with her catching up on life, love and politics while sampling many musical delights and taking in the southern charm of Norfolk. The end of the year saw her come to our home here in England to enjoy the best that country life in Suffolk can offer.
My mother is what I would describe as a ‘quiet feminist’ who battled against deep patriarchy in corporate America in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, first by returning to University to get a BA and then MA, and then in the world of health insurance. She worked hard, put her head down, and achieved great success despite the odds. While the glass ceiling was there, it certainly needed to be raised after her career and I am immensely impressed by her and hugely proud of her. She is a bedrock of wisdom in difficult times and a sheer joy to be with.
Family life has been a joy this as my eldest daughter continued in high school, my stepson finished primary and entered secondary school, and my youngest started in reception. Three kids in three schools makes for a hectic but rewarding schedule, while our menagerie of animals at home keeps us quite busy!
My year’s activities involved travel, publishing, teaching, business development, institution building and of course magic! In many cases, these activities were not mutually exclusive, but reinforcing and interdependent in ways that have enriched my experience.
The travel schedule was heavy this year with international obligations taking me to the United States, Belgium, Germany, Sweden, Norway, Austria, Mozambique and Ukraine. In each location, I have met truly wonderful people and made new friends, while nurturing old friendships. Work involved lecturing, training, and giving key note speeches primarily on global trends in democracy and human rights, as well as the value of systematic research and evidence-based advocacy and policy making. Downtime in these venues allowed for a little sightseeing and walking as well as bit of magical entertaining.
2012 saw a lot of work come out in books and articles, with some pending publications coming out in 2013 that have been completed from my desk. These include:
I was honoured to teach a methods course in Vienna for human rights students, a comparative methods course for the Essex Summer School in Social Science Data Analysis, and my course The Comparative Politics of Human Rights.
My work as the Director of the Institute for Democracy and Conflict Resolution at the University of Essex has me engaged with partner organisations from the public and private sector as we seek to generate new high value content for a wide range of users. We developed a pilot mediation training course, and delivered other forms of training as part of our work in parliamentary strengthening. Our research capacity was used for a wonderful UNDP project on democratic governance and sustainable human development and we engaged with the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance on staff training. Our work with the Mackman Group has been excellent and culminated in the launch of our ESRC-funded Human Rights Atlas.
The year has seen continued development of Institute for Democracy and Conflict Resolutionand Psycrets: The British Society of Mystery Entertainers. The IDCR goes from strength to strength as we engage in a variety of challenging and rewarding projects across training, research and policy analysis. Psycrets has expanded its international network and celebrated its 5th Anniversary with an amazing volume entitled Liber Mentis, edited by Steve Drury.
Finally, the world of magic continues to inspire me and push my capacity for creativity and innovation. I have enjoyed performing with Pool Voodini in our show The Edge of the Unknown. I have performed around the UK and further afield as I never leave home without a little magic. The highlight of the year has been my appointment as a Visiting Professor of Performance Magic at the University of Huddersfield where I conducted a drama workshop entitled The Magician, the Mentalist and the Mystic. I have joined the editorial board of the new Journal of Performance Magic, which will have its inaugural issue in Spring of 2013.
While 2011 was the year of the Arab Spring, 2012 featured the prolonged and inclusive struggle in Syria that has taken so many lives, a regression in the positive steps taken by Egypt, and another unfortunate conflict between Israel and Palestine. A large proportion of the world breathed a collective sigh of relief with the re-election of Barack Obama in the United States, but he faces many challenges not least of which his increasingly worrying drone policy, the fiscal cliff solution (which may or may not happen tonight), and the on-going battle over gun control after yet another mass shooting (this time in a primary school).
Life under austerity will continue and the struggle in the Eurozone will continue for 2013, as European democracies search for long term solutions for failed economic models. I have stressed this year and will continue to stress that the financial crisis in Europe is a problem for democracy not a problem of democracy.
On a positive note, we all survived the Mayan Apocalypse and as 2013 marches on, may we agree with Daniel Pinchbeck and see a shift in global consciousness towards more peace, more understanding, and empathy for our fellow humans instead of over self-centred egotism and maximisation of material self-interest. The New Year brings many challenges, but the human spirit and capacity for overcoming adversity is strong. My new book Human Rights and Democracy: The Precarious Triumph of Idealsis guided by a simple belief that humans have incredible desire and capacity for demanding a better life and to challenge oppression wherever it may manifest itself. While 2011 saw the election of Dilma Rousseff the first female president of Brazil and former prisoner of the military regime, 2012 saw the election of Ayn San Suu Kyi to the Burmese Parliament. These examples and others serve as positive reminders of what is possible, which is why I welcome the new public and open letter from 73 Chinese academics calling on the new regime to accelerate the much needed political reforms to complement the otherwise impressive economic progress that has been achieved.
No doubt 2013 will be another roller coaster ride, but let's hope the net experience is a positive one!
Happy New Year!
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