2013 set to ramp up the bitterness
As another Christmas passes and 2012 draws to a close it is hard to escape the conclusion the ancient hope for peace on earth and goodwill among men and women everywhere is as far away as ever.
The past 365 days have been marred by civil wars such as the one still raging in Syria, simmering conflicts such as the one between the Israelis and the Palestinians, rising tensions in our immediate neighbourhood with territorial disputes in the South China Sea, and disasters both natural and man-made.
Global economic calamity has also threatened with many European economies still teetering in the wake of the global financial crisis and the US counting down to its much-debated ''fiscal-cliff''.
Closer to home we have seen signs that Australia's resource-driven economic miracle is running out of puff and, as a result, an already embattled Gillard government has shelved its promised budget surplus in 2013.
Capping off a year that seemed to set a new benchmark for spite on both sides of the political mainstream, the government's sensible decision was seized upon with glee by an opposition that had been calling for exactly that for months.
Accusations of misogyny, shameless displays of hypocrisy, the Craig Thomson scandal, the allegations against Peter Slipper and the AWU affair have made for an ignoble year in federal politics - a year that began with the ugly image of the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, being dragged away from tent embassy protesters by police and security staff.
The acrimony and bitterness of 2012 will, if anything, escalate in the year to come given a federal election must be fought and won by November 30, 2013. Considering their respective popularity, or lack of it, this means neither Ms Gillard, nor Opposition Leader Tony Abbott, can afford to be complacent about their leadership.
And while many in the Coalition are quietly confident they will occupy the government benches this time next year, the Liberals and Nationals have offered little concrete proof they would do a better job than the current minority government.
That certainly proved the case when the ACT went to the polls in October. Labor was returned with barely a mandate - the narrow margin setting Chief Minister Katy Gallagher quite a challenge: governing for the half of the electorate that did not support Labor as well as the 50 per cent that did.
Across the Pacific, Barack Obama also won re-election as much due to the lack of a credible Republican alternative as on his own accomplishments. On matters military, 2013 will mark the withdrawal of most Australian soldiers from Afghanistan. This is expected to be welcomed by a populace that has long questioned the ongoing sacrifice of courageous young Australians on the altar of the US alliance.
It was not, however, all doom and gloom in 2012. The London Olympics, while short on swimming gold for Australia, were a success, proving again that the British are often at their best when things are at their worst. The island kingdom also had reason to celebrate as Queen Elizabeth II marked the 60th anniversary of her reign.
A party is also on the cards for Canberrans in 2013 with some exciting plans in place to celebrate the centenary of the national capital.
And perhaps we should be grateful we're around to party at all. The prophets of doom were dudded when the world did not end on December 21 in accordance with what was falsely claimed to be an ancient Mayan prophecy. But we can expect to hear more from them in the lead-up to February 15, 2013, when Asteroid DA14 is due to pass within 35,000 kilometres of the blue planet.
The only thing that can be said with any certainty about 2013 is that challenges - the known and the unknown - lie ahead, each promising success and potential despair.
We leave our readers with two observations worthy of contemplation as the sun sets on 2012 and a new year dawns.
The first is from Marcus Aurelius, the Roman emperor: ''Nothing happens to anyone that they are not formed by nature to bear.''
The second is from the Australian poet, Adam Lindsay Gordon: ''Life is mostly froth and bubble, Two things stand like stone, Kindness in another's trouble, Courage in your own.''