Thursday, 29 December 2011

year end fall-in or out with the old

It's hard to believe that Aught-Twelve is nearly upon us. 2011 was a wild ride globally and 2012 surely is successor to the these upheavals and redefined envelopes of comfort, with a few cushions for the more jarring happenstances, and will undoubtedly have surprising and serendipitous developments of its own.
The archivists and historians are tasked with giving a thoughtful and complete recollection of the year’s file, and here are a few events (by no means complete or exhaustive) that I thought were particularly noteworthy, from the vantage point of the calendar:

January – The revolutionary movement that would become known as the "Arab Spring" began in earnest with escalating civil unrest in Tunisia that lead to the abdication of the country’s long-time ruler. The movement grew and more tyrants were toppled—including Egypt and Libya, like the cavalcade of caricatures from Phil Collins' Land of Confusion music-video, making deposits, regional and elsewhere nervous—on either extreme, either charitable or more prone to crack-down on insurrection, and squarely saddling the freedom fighters with the responsibilities of democratic governance.

February – Suriname becomes the first country to formally recognize the state of Palestine, which is later in the year admitted as a member of UNESCO, causing the US to withhold its dues to the UN fund in protest. The Wikileaks diplomatic cables dump alleged accomplice, Bradley Manning, was found to have been held in solitary confinement for over seven months at the time, without being charged or provided with the opportunity to seek counsel--a development that was roundly criticized. IBM’s artificial intelligence Watson competed on the American quiz show Jeopardy! against some of the game’s top human contestants.

March – Japan's north east is decimated by a strong tsunami, driven by an equally strong and devastating earthquake. Damage and disruptions subsequently led to partial melt-downs of coastal nuclear reactor units. Sympathy and hysteria spread all over the world, and fears of radioactive poisoning and for the security of power-plants in general cause many people to reevaluate their nuclear programmes. Germany, as a result, brought many reactors off-line immediately and will execute a complete moratorium within the next two decades.

April – A monstrous storm system battered extensive parts of the US south and mid-west—all as part of the year that seemingly broke the weather, extensive flooding follows. The American military is deployed to the border with Mexico, partially in response to increased incidents of gang violence seeping into the US. NATO forces aid Libyan rebels in overthrowing Qaddhafi, cornering him and supporters to a few strongholds.

May – A team of US Special Forces locate and kill Osama bin Laden in a compound in Pakistan. The US dollar continues to lose value against global currencies as the repercussions of the burst housing market are still being realized. The EU, amid ongoing financial coming-clean and protests against austerity measures from Spain, Greece and Italy, approved a prophylactic bailout loan for Portugal, to staunch the panic. Drought conditions not seen in two decades cause widespread famine throughout Africa.  Queen Elizabeth II makes the first official visit of the monarchy to the Republic of Ireland since independence was declared. The latest in a series of predicted raptures did not occur.

June – Tension grows stemming from street protests in the UK, Spain and Greece over proposed economic austerity measures, including cuts in social services and raising the retirement age, meant to balance national budgets. Hundreds of extrasolar planets are being discovered, piquing the imagination and broadening scientific horizons. Unemployment and stagnant business growth continue to haunt the United States, as insults are swapped as aspirants are preparing for the presidential election session.

July – NASA and the US government retire the Space Shuttle programme, hoping that, laissez faire, private industry will close the science chasm that has left Russia and ESA scrambling to service. Norway was visited by a horrific domestic terrorist attack. There were bouts of courage and bravery in this tragedy, which was not perpetrated by the usual suspects, religious radicals that fit the profile of our stereotypes, but rather by a lone individual trying to punctuate his conservative and xenophobic ideas. Europe’s lurching towards more socially conservative platforms became a much discussed topic, in response to the earlier best-seller status of a tract assaulting integration by Thilo Sarrazin, the pronouncement by Angela Merkel herself that "multi-culti" has failed, and the killing spree by a band of neo-nazis that went under the radar and all but unnoticed for months among other emerging trends.

October – The UN announced that the world’s population has just surpassed seven billion people. Credit rating agencies continue their reign of terror, nudging markets this way and that with their verdicts on credit-worthiness. Italian Wikipedia shuts down in response to proposed changes in national copyright and fair-use laws that would severely curtail how the site could operate—prescient of a similar maneuver later in the US to denude the internet. The UK is gently sidling away from EU participation over fear-mongering of German overlordship, and this creep will express itself later with more heated exchanges and a repairing towards nationalism and protectionism.

November – Greece and Italy get new leadership over failed stewardship of their economies. Before resigning, Silvio Berlusconi releases a record album of himself crooning love songs. Thousands of students descend on London, angered over tuition hikes. Other Britons shudder over the first steps in privatization of public health care schemes. Police in New York forcibly clear Occupy Wall Street protesters after months of rallies, but the movement has spread to urban-centres world wide. Doctors and engineers develop a 3-D bone scaffold printer to help patients with broken bones in emergency situations.

December – After more than eight years of conflict, spilt blood and squandered treasure to no clear end, America quietly withdrew its last remaining troops (though their presence will be subsumed by a huge, enduring diplomatic corps and army of rent-a-cops) from Iraq, without fanfare or too much arrogance but also without lessons learnt. Under the toxic advisement of figures like Curveball, dissidents to tell the US government what it wanted to hear and Hussein exaggerating his complement of arms to appear tough in a tough neighbourhood, and general designs for empire, the coalition splintered and American spent its borrowed capital, and now is attempting to stare down the Iranians in the same way. Given all the past manipulation that the regimes of Iran have undergone at the hands of American and British interference and that there is no conclusive evidence that the country is on a war-footing, possibly just talk and posteuring, it seems like maybe 2012 will also have some re-runs.