Even before his face was covered in cream pie, Rupert Murdoch described his grilling at the News of the World public flogging as ‘the most humble day of my life’, and he was not alone; 2011 proved a lesson in humility for many others as well.
Perhaps the man with the most influence in 2011 is the one whose name we have all forgotten or even never known. Mohamed Bouazizi’s self immolation in late December 2010 ignited a revolution in Tunisia, which quickly spread across North Africa and the Middle East. In quick succession Tunisia’s Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali and then Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak were each subjected to their own ‘humble days’. Eventually, the ever humble Muammar Gaddafi also fell, with the Libyan population squeezing him to a gruesome public death, in much the same fashion as his beloved golden fist statue was supposedly strangling American hegemony. Meanwhile, the fires of revolution are still simmering in Syria, Yemen and Bahrain, ensuring even more humble days to come.
While all across the Arab world populations were rising up and reclaiming power, a different type of movement was taking place across the Western world. Somewhat less ferocious than the Arab Spring, the Occupy movement shook capitalism to its core when random hippies, career protestors and disaffected middle class white people got together in tents and tweeted their frustrations, sang songs and blogged about ‘the 99%’, in their own attempt to shake the status quo. So far, no governments have fallen and banks are as rich as ever.
Those in the West not ‘Occupying’ were either looting London, joining the Tea Party or busy fighting for gay marriage rights, and with the world population hitting 7 billion this year, surely a few same sex childless marriages could not hurt the already strained resources of mother earth.
As many in the Horn of Africa (…and Japan, Australia, Pakistan, New Zealand, Brasil and the Philippines) discovered, mother earth can be a bitch – especially when combined with Al Shabaab, an apathetic West and US politics. The famine victims also found out that the West still does not give much of a toss about Africa – a royal wedding and Pippa Middleton’s ass are far more interesting. Despite 12 million people at risk of hunger, displacement and violence from the worst drought in 60 years and Somalia described as ‘…the world’s most critical situation,’ only $800 million in emergency aid was raised. If that sounds like a lot, consider that the final Harry Potter movie took in over $1 billion in the US alone. The people of Africa continue to be humble.
Elsewhere in the parallel universe that is Hollywood, a mindless public continue to soak up sequels, prequels, adaptations and rehashed ideas, with 9 out of the world’s top 10 grossing movies for 2011 falling into these categories. With Harry Potter finally ending, taking longer to die than Monty Python’s Black Knight, we now have to be subjected to the most likely never ending Twilight series. In TV land Charlie Sheen, ‘star’ of Two and a Half Men, had his own humble day, finally being axed from the show after one too many drugged and drunken escapades. Sadly though, he did not take the show down with him and Ashton Kutcher has stepped in, showing just how much acting ability it takes to appear in one of the worst programs of all time.
Despite the problems in the Horn, Africans did have some reason for celebration in 2011, with the creation of the world’s newest state, South Sudan. While the finer details are still being ironed out, many in the country are finally free from violence after decades of war with Khartoum. Elsewhere on the continent Ivoirians have a new government (and a former leader in The Hague), Liberia is continuing its bumpy ride to stability and two African women were honoured with the Nobel Peace Prize.
Celebrations in Juba, South Sudan
A Nobel Prize is surely the only public praise to elude Apple’s Steve Jobs, who was lauded with public affection following his iDemise in 2011. The skivvy wearing iGod of computer nerds all across the world surely pipped Osama bin Laden for the title of most notable death of 2011, although not the most celebrated. Jobs’ posthumous iOgraphy has claimed the number 1 spot on Amazon’s bestseller list, despite only being available for two months, while OBL is now fish food somewhere in the Indian Ocean – or living it up with JFK, Elvis and Bigfoot somewhere in the Caribbean, depending on who you believe.
Bin Laden’s legacy is no less powerful than Jobs’ though. This year marked the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks and yet another reading of every single name of every single person who died. There are no plans to read out the names of every single Afghan or Iraqi who has died since 2001 and 2003, and given that the number is around 140,000 it might take another ten years if it was undertaken. While ten years on the US is still fighting their unwinnable war in Afghanistan, they have managed to spin there way out of Iraq, eight years after ‘Mission Accomplished’ was declared. The $823 billion war has succeeded not only in removing Saddam Hussein, but introducing Gen Y to methods of torture, ending the lives of over 100,000 Iraqi civilians and making the region less safe.
The final victim of US anger may come after the end of official military operations. Julian Assange, who has been exposing abuses, scandals and war crimes in Iraq through his Wikileaks website, is still fighting his extradition to Sweden (and then the US he claims) on rape questioning. If he is eventually sent to Stockholm, a call to Dominique Strauss Kahn’s lawyer may be his best move. DSK, the one time French presidential candidate was not the only European leader to be humbled in 2011. Time, scandal and some would say, karma, finally caught up with Italy’s ever humble Silvio Berlusconi who was forced to resign in November, the same month as Greece’s PM George Papandreou stepped down and Spaniards elected a new President, as new winds of change swept through Europe.
As the chickens came home to roost for many European, African and Arab leaders, one prominent national leader, albeit unofficial, can finally see brighter days ahead. Burma’s Aung San Suu Kyi, freed from house arrest in late 2010 has stated her intention to re-enter politics and has not been rearrested since the declaration. The country’s military government also announced the release of hundreds of political prisoners and the talk is already of the ‘Burmese Spring’ in 2012. And perhaps with another ever humble national leader, Kim Jon, succumbing to his Il-ness there may be a ‘North Korean Spring’ in 2012 too…
So what else is in store for 2012?
No doubt there will be more humble days ahead for the Murdoch’s, with the Russian doll phone hacking scandal having more life than the Harry Potter series. Elsewhere in Europe, surely things can only get better for Ireland, Portugal, Iceland, Spain, Greece and Italy, with the Germans, ironically, looking like the saviours of Europe in the 21st century. The eyes of many in 2012 will be on the Middle East, in particular Syria as we await Arab Spring, Pt II (sounds like a Hollywood movie), Iraq’s recovery and the continued push for Palestinian statehood. I don’t think I’m going out on a limb by saying Afghanistan will probably look the same in 12 months as it does now.
In the Latin world Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez faces an uphill battle not only to stay alive, but to stay in power, Cubans will finally have the right to buy and sell property, the Mexican authorities will maintain their war with the drug cartels and Brasil will continue to prepare for its double whammy of World Cup 2014 and Olympics 2016.
Who will we say goodbye to in 2012? Will Amy Winehouse be welcoming another member of the 27 Club? With the club boasting the likes of Cobain, Hendrix, Morrison and Joplin it is unlikely that any of the eligible musicians – Lily Allen, Leona Lewis, T-Pain, Zac Hanson and Bruno Mars – have the talent to gain entry. Check out the annual Death List for the betting on all 2012 mortalities.
My musical prediction for 2012 is the continued revival of the 90’s. With the 80’s fad seemingly over (thank God – wasn’t once enough!) the 90’s will be next. We have already seen the reformation of alternative heavyweights Faith No More, Rage against the Machine and Soundgarden in recent years and no 90’s revival would be complete without a heroin death, which unfortunately we have also had in 2011, that of Mike Starr, former bassist of Alice in Chains. Look out for the (welcome) resurrection of flannel, long hair and distortion.
For the final word on 2011, it’ll have to be a tweet; such has been the influence of twitter this year – from Arab revolutions to the Occupy movement to Warnie to the Pope to Charlie Sheen to Somalia’s Al Shabaab – everyone is tweeting.
Just to prove that bureaucrats are occasionally human and can have a sense of humour, one of them in the White House posted this during a meeting…
@wiggsd Sorry to hear that. Fiscal policy is important, but can be dry sometimes. Here’s something more fun: tinyurl.com/y8ufsnp #WHChat
Merry Xmas everyone and Happy New Year, see you in 2012 – stublogs