Well, there haven't been any world wars lately, but looking back on recent events, things seem to have been getting worse.
For example, in 2014, the UN refugee agency reported that the number of refugees, asylum-seekers and internally displaced people worldwide exceeded 50 million people for the first time in the post-World War II era. Here is the story of only 1 group of Syrian refugees braving winter snow in Lebanon:
In Nigeria, 234 school girls were kidnapped in April last year by the terrorist group Boko Haram, and, according to locals, they were sold as brides to Islamic militants in neighbouring Chad and Cameroon for the equivalent of 12 dollars each.
In Syria and Iraq, the Sunni group calling itself Islamic State, publically executed at least 2000 people in 2014, many of whom were forced to dig their own graves first. Islamic State fighters, and their children, sometimes posed proudly afterwards, showing severed heads. The deaths included the public beheadings of western journalists and aid workers. Sometimes, the children themselves were videod carrying out the executions.
These barbaric killings were followed in October by guidelines from the Islamic State about the capture and treatment of slaves, including approval to buy and sell non-Muslim women, and approval to have sex with prepubescent girls.
The guidelines about treatment of slaves were handed out after Friday prayers, and also posted on an IS website.
Many accounts about the abuse of women have surfaced since the group began its brutal occupation of parts of Syria and Iraq. These accounts include chilling stories from members of the Yazidi religious minority.
The Yazidis are predominantly ethnic Kurdish, and are regarded as 'devil-worshipers' by Muslims because of their veneration for one of the angels they believe was expelled from heaven, but who was later forgiven and then returned to heaven with the permission of god. The Yazidi religion is derived partly from Christianity, Zoroastrianism (an ancient Persian faith) and also, but only in part, from Islam.
Yazidi men were shot by IS, and Yazidi women were subjected to systematic rape and sex slavery. Some women were exposed in markets in Mosul and in Raqqa, Syria, carrying price tags.
In Mexico, late in September, police and unidentified gunmen believed to be members of a drug cartel ambushed a caravan of college student activists in the state of Guerrero, about half way from Mexico City to Acapulco.
This abduction was reportedly at the behest of a local mayor and his wife who were concerned that planned protests by the students would interfere with or overshadow events planned by themselves.
According to the Mexican government, the abductees were turned over to a gang related to the mayoral couple, who killed the students, burned their bodies, and dumped their remains in a river.
And genocide is still alive and well in different parts of the world. According to Global Research, these genocides include the Ukraine, where the Ukraine army and its militias have attempted to decrease the number of civilian ethnic Russians in areas which might vote for separation from the Ukraine.
In India, Global Research also reports that the government’s program against Naxalite guerillas has extended to assassination of villagers and mass sterilizations of the poor. The target of 125 Chhattisgarh surgeons for 2014-15 is 175,000 sterilizations, as it was in 2013-2014. (“India sterilization abuse: genocide by other means,” Bill Weinberg, Nov. 14, 2014, World War 4 report.)
In Myanmar, a genocide warning continues for the Rakhine Muslim population, those referred to as “Rohingya” throughout the country. During the last few months, as in 2008, thousands of Rohingya Muslims have fled seeking haven in other countries. According to their relatives, thousands appear to have disappeared.
Parts of the so-called civilized western world are no less guilty. Following the Charlie Hebdo attack, France has been forthright about its support for free speech and protection of its citizens, Yet Global Research claims that France is continuing with the ethnic cleansing of Roms, and is ignoring the European Union’s effort to dissuade France to stop this ethnic cleansing. The bulldozing of Roma camps continues.
The evictions and destruction involve an attempt to eradicate the entire ethnic Roma racial group. The anti-Roma campaigns seem to have begun in Italy under Berlusconi, releasing right wing populists rising to power through increased persecutions. The anti-Roma campaigns continued under Sarkhozy in France, then spread to Hungary, the Republic of Czechoslovakia, and then the rest of Europe.
Even in countries espousing freedom and human rights, a majority of citizens have endorsed the torture of terrorism suspects. By an almost 2-1 margin, or 59-to-31 percent, those interviewed in a US poll support the CIA’s use of waterboarding, with the vast majority of supporters believing that this produced valuable intelligence.
This endorsement of torture is despite the conclusion of the US Senate’s Intelligence Committee that harsh interrogation techniques, including waterboarding, were not an effective means of gathering intelligence.
Would it happen again? Well, most likely yes, if a Republican wins the next presidential election. The former Vice President, Dick Cheyney, said he ‘would do it again’. And there will be no charges laid against the CIA, which hacked the computers of US Senators prior to the release of the report.
Last year was also a bad year for the free flow of information. According to the International Federation of Journalists, the number of journalists killed (118) was a record. And in the USA, the Obama administration is unrelenting in its pursuit of whistleblowers.
In conflict zones, journalists who are targeted are attacked "not only to restrict the free flow of information, but increasingly as leverage to secure huge ransoms and political concessions through sheer violence", Jim Boumelha, IFJ's president, said in a statement.
As 2015 begins, the Washington Post editorial board warns that Libya is well on its way to becoming the second war zone in the Middle East - with the same downside of empowering radical jihadists and destabliizing neighboring countries.
In Pakistan, the execution-style attack by the Taliban on schoolchildren and staff at a school in Peshawar last December killed 141, and wounded another 121 students and 3 staff members. The Pakistani government has retaliated by mounting military strikes on Taliban groups, and beginning the executions of convicted terrorists. It remains to be seen whether Pakistan can now completely reverse its former policy of assisting the Taliban groups that supported its agenda in Afghanistan.
On the border between Pakistan and India, relations have deteriorated even further recently, particularly over conflicting interests in Kashmir. Pakistan and India are both nuclear powers, and the consequences of increased hostilities are grave.
In Europe, the terrorist attack on the Paris offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo has strengthened far-right and center-right parties who are anti-immigration and anti-Muslim.
On the opposing side, the Yemeni branch of Al Qaida, which claims responsibility for the Paris Charlie Hebdo killings, has threatened it will carry out further attacks.
Overall, maybe more people were killed in previous years. Such figures are difficult to quantify. But it was the barbarity and cruelty of many of the deaths that was the defining memory of 2014. Also, it was the way in which these killings were proudly flaunted by IS militants that was so disturbing.
Another of the lowest points was the kidnapping and sale of schoolgirls and the open encouragement to enslave and rape captive females, even prepubescent girls. This, all under the guise of a self-proclaimed religious group.
So, in the light of these on-going events, it's difficult to be optimistic about 2015.
The economic stability of Europe is still shaky, and the elephant in the room that's getting bigger every second is the US debt, which in mid January 2015, totaled over 18 trillion dollars. This debt has ballooned by 5 trillion in less than 5 years.
There are various sites on the net that try to put the figure of just 1 trillion into perspective. There's nothing that tries to relate, or visualize 18 trillion.
The year ahead looks like being a wild ride.