by GABRIELA IONIT, 12-29-11
2011 was a hectic year. 2011 was a year of turmoil, from revolutions in the Middle East and fiery turbulence in London to milder outbursts against Netflix price increases or the Hershey warehouse’s student working conditions. Even Time Magazine selected ‘The protester’ as the Person of the Year. Much agitation and latent discontents which erupted, generating many questions and few answers, many uncertainties and few clarifications. And if I said few answers, I don’t mean to the aggressive responses of law of enforcement against protesters, used from the United States to Russia, and from London to Damascus or even to Beijing.
This year 42 journalists, more or less known, have lost their lives while trying to do their job professionally. Among those who left shockingly and prematurely included the British-American photojournalist Tim Hetherington, renowned photographer and co-director with Sebastian Junger of the documentary Restrepo (2010). Tim Hetherington was killed near town Misrata, during the civil war between opponents of the Gaddafi regime and its supporters.
Year of political and economic crisis
The eurozone’s future hung in the balance, the US saw its credit rating downgraded, Japan’s earthquake rocked financial markets and fiscal failings forced out two prime ministers. Prime minister Silvio Berlusconi and his Greek counterpart received “read cards”. Also, many political players from Middle East (Syria, Yemen, Jordan), Europe and Russia received “yellow cards” for low efficiency of crisis management and possibly the debt maturity to come in 2012. In spring, with the world looking for firm financial leadership, Dominique Strauss-Kahn was arrested in New York on sexual assault allegations, forcing his resignation as the head of the International Monetary Fund (the charges were subsequently dropped). The episode remains controversial.
In autumn, the tension between the US and China over international trade escalated when Beijing imposed additional duties on cars imported from the United States. One dramatic change, Russia was admitted into the World Trade Organisation on Friday after 18 years of negotiation, finally binding it into the global economy two decades after the Soviet Union collapsed.
EU leaders agreed a “fiscal compact” after David Cameron vetoed a revision of the Lisbon treaty. And the year ends with a happy new year message from the IMF: the world, warns Lagarde, is at serious risk of sliding into a 1930s-style slump.
But I believe this will keep happening, each time it will get worse because there is no answer to this present crisis if we continue with the failed economics of Milton Friedman and the free market gang. Moreover, everything we have seen from 2008 to now was the socialization of financial risk, but emphaticallynot profits! Politicians are shy when it comes to discussion about bankers who support their political adventure/agenda & ambitions.
Some dictatorships breakdown – the global police rise to quell this outbreak of freedom swilling masses
But 2011 was also a year when substantial swaths of humanity escaped some dictatorships. True, questions remain, given the lack of principles and functional hypocrisy of the very same countries that have contributed to the fall of Egypt’s Mubarak and Libya’s Gaddafi regimes, after decades of supporting the two dictators because it suited their interests.
The democratization of these countries started with the left. Initial results proved to be disastrous. We’ll see, in 2012 and beyond, if a democracy will be built with representative government, a free press, and an independent judiciary? Still, Libyan “soap-opera” has provided opportunity to the regime in Damascus to justify unspeakable abuses against Syrian protesters. The incongruity between the repression of a criminal regime, the help received to destabilize Syria, and justification for external intervention boggles the mind. In addition, after the Libyan adventure, more and more shadows hint at collusion in relations between major political actors, the U.S., Russia and China.
At the end of the year, North Korea finally escaped Kim Jong-Il, only to be shackled to his younger son rumored to have a personality much like his father’s, naturally?. The older son has sought and received political refugee status in Beijing. Had there been a power struggle that escaped the notice of Western intelligence? It appears the way of communism in Pyongyang smacks of monarchy, replacing one dictator with his heir apparent child and likeness. The emperor is dead…long live the emperor!
Watching the images of the funeral of Kim Jong-Il, many Western citizens wondered how such a thing possible. The answer has several components: time, fear, limitations on human and citizen rights, ideological indoctrination–Basic tools of any police and dictatorial state.
If you thought this could happen only in Korea or Iran, I say to you, think again. Let′s speak a little about police states, the first step of any authoritarian regime. In fact, Syria is a leading exponent of the police state. The very same type of reaction (though to a lesser egregious extent) can be seen in all countries where the authorities are faced with the discontent of the population. Even Rome’s Caesars feared the unemployed mobs, financing the spectacle of bread & circus to distract them.
Take a good look at the authorities in your country! When there are no solutions, they hide their incompetence under various pretexts – predictably generating fear and insecurity: the fall of the euro, the nuclear threat, terrorists, national security (or the $ecurity of their own pockets), unemployment, austerity. Check out Team Obama’s press briefing about the ongoing saga of the Nigerian underwear bomber. Obama is clearly trying to cultivate a fear of Al-Qaeda in order to build blind trust in his government. After the President’s remarks, his Homeland Security Secretary and Deputy National Security Advisor took the stage to unveil a series of proposals to ‘improve security’. The bogeyman of a terrorist behind every bus stop is manipulated to panic Americans into accepting the elimination of civil liberties and fundamental rights to Due Process.
After the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq (a lost battle, despite official propaganda), President Obama needs a new enemy on which to focus the attention of his Americans, to rally voters for the upcoming election season. Iran, Al-Qaeda, et ux, can all be used to the same end. What’s important is to cultivate fear and deflect attention from the disaster produced by Wall Street’s fat cats.
According to The Moscow Times, the top three individual words used by Russian mass-media in 2011 are полиция (police), рокировка (castling, job swap at the top) and льфа-самец (alpha male). Russia has fashioned a popular villain meant to scare voters and justify the cost of weapons: America’s anti-missile shield. Examples could continue but for the limits of time and attention spans.
2012 will be a year when many countries will have parliamentary and/or presidential elections. It’s good to seriously consider who you will support with your vote. It is a time to remind politicians we want to live in a world of moral, healthy principles and values. According FT’s political column, “2012 will be driven by tactics and electoral timing. The great revolt will come later. Next year, tactically adept incumbents may survive by offering stability in a time of chaos. Their chances are particularly high if they can identify with the pain of their citizens more effectively than weak challengers”. (I feel your pain.) I believe this represents a chance for citizens is to think. It does not cost–Not yet!