Well, it’s been quite a year. 2011 may be remembered for the Arab Spring, and it may be remembered for the year the wheels started to fall off the euro. Neither of these plays has yet reached a denouement, although we should see more clearly the outcomes in the first half of 2012.
First, some of the people who will not see 2012:
Steve Jobs, the genius behind Apple.Kim Jong-il, the genius behind..er.. N.Korea
Muammur Gaddafi of Libya.
Amy Winehouse, singer, only 27 years old.
Liz Taylor, actress.
Osama bin Laden
Boxers Henry Cooper and Joe Frazier, cricketers Basil d’Oliveira and Fred Titmus, golfer Sevvy Ballesteros
Politicians Garrett Fitzgerald and Vaclav Havel
Knut the German polar bear
Heidi the cross-eyed opossum at Leipzig zoo.
We say hello to Southern Sudan, separated from its neighbour following a referendum.
In other news:
England won the Ashes in Australia for the first time in 23 years
The long running News of the World newspaper was closed, following a celebrity ‘phone hacking scandal (at least Hugh Grant was scandalised and the few who were interested in his private life were probably disappointed). Prince William married Kate Middleton, in a ceremony broadcast around the world and which it seems everyone except me thought was wonderful.
Britain, France and America bombed Libya and helped to bring down Gaddafi, but did not send in troops because the Arab League told them they couldn’t.
An earthquake and tsunami in Japan damaged the nuclear installation at Fukushima, causing many countries to review their nuclear policy. Sexual accident-prone ‘gorilla’ and Head of the IMF Dominique Strauss Kahn had to resign his job and his French Presidential bid after a chambermaid accused him of raping her in a hotel. The BBC persistently failed to pronounce his name right.
American troops left Iraq, after 9 years. Apple are selling an App for Roman Catholics to confess their sins. Current models do not, however, grant absolution.
Italy celebrated 150 years as a republic and said goodbye to 66 years of democracy as the European Union forced in a ‘technocratic’ (which seems to mean ‘unelected’ in Italian) government, bringing about the downfall of Silvio Berlusconi, the only world leader who told good jokes.
Not much has changed for Silvio, though, as he continues to spend most of his time on his court cases. In this respect David Mills, the husband of former cabinet minister Tessa Jowell, accused of giving false evidence in Silvio’s favour, has said he made it all up.
In Norway, a man called Breivik killed 92 people in a gun attack. Norwegian authorities are trying to decide whether he was mad or not.
Wall St was occupied because nobody likes bank clerks, there was looting in London because everybody likes free TVs and trainers, and riots in Athens and Rome because nobody likes reality.
President Sarkozy of France soured relations with Britain and Turkey in a bid to get re-elected.
David Cameron vetoed a Euro-treaty, some say enraging the diminutive Frenchman. Others say it was what he wanted all along. Britain said no to the Alternative Vote system, which wasn’t proportional representation and wasn’t what we’ve always had, but otherwise nobody had a clue about it.
Amanda ‘Foxy Knoxy’ Knox was acquitted, while UK Defence Minister Liam ‘Foxy Foxy’ Fox had to resign due to an inexplicable relationship with the best man at his wedding.
Scientists at CERN thought that neutrinos could travel faster than light. Something to bear in mind during a transport strike.
Harold Camping said the world would end on 21st May, which would have made for a fairly short marriage between the Duke and Duchess of Cambridgeshire, and again on 21st October. Mr. Camping is fortunately still with us.
Belgium swore in a government after 535 days without one but nothing much has changed.
One of the nominees for the BBC’s woman of the year is a panda.
But the main items were two. The Arab spring saw an overthrow of dictators in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya and, equally important, made a number of governments review their often limited democracy and poor rights records: Morocco, Jordan, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia. Against that there have been outbreaks of religious and sectarian violence in many of these countries, and the path towards democracy is still far from clear. Syria is effectively in civil war.
In the Eurozone, the prediction made by many of us that the single currency could not survive its first real crisis looks as if it may come true. The havoc that a disorderly break up would generate is a brutal threat to the capitalist system which has made us rich. A controlled break-up seems difficult for political reasons. Some are saying that Germany, when creating and joining the euro, implicitly accepted that it would have to bail out countries in crisis. Germany says that it would only do that if it had control of the financial levers in those countries. To me, the system looks half-baked, and even countries like Britain, outside the euro, will be lucky if they don’t suffer from this dichotomy.
This blog will be following these and other stories in the year to come, and I hope you will keep reading it. I wish you a Happy and Prosperous (ha-ha) New Year.