Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Year By Gone - 2011

2011 - well...the year Saif's Den was born

2012 is being purported as the year when the world will come to an end, which we love to hate and disbelief. However, 2011 proved to be a handful of a year for a number of reasons. Let’s take a look at the events and stories that made headlines.

'The Protester'

The year started with protests. The year is ending with protests. Quite rightly, Times have named the Person of the Year to “The Protester”. It has been an year where people have woken up to the realisation that it wasn't meant to be that way as it has been happening, in front of their very eyes, for decades. The realisation that their rights have been trampled on, their freedom strangulated, and their desires choked. A culmination arose among the masses that they have not only being deprived of their rights and freedom, but also that they have been subjugated to poverty, while their rich, eternal and conscienceless leaders remorse little the condition their people are in.

It all began from a small town (Sidi Bouzid); erupted into a country-wide show of agitation against injustice (Tunisia); that gradually turned into a regional uprising against those dictators who had ruled over them for years (Arab Spring, Middle East),  eventually setting a precedent for every soul across the globe who felt disconsolate with the affairs. The protests against political system or social injustice or corruption, be it for any reason, it became a fast spreading epidemic among the masses, while it is a reminder of people’s power for both the intelligent and the ignorant leaders, alike.

Tahrir Square - a symbol of freedom - erupts at the news of Hosni Mubarak's ouster

The most prominent ones were in the Middle East, that was even named as The Arab Spring. For some the struggle has ended against their tyrannical rulers and for their rights, while for others in the region, the struggle is still ongoing. Then there are those who were squashed with brute force when they demanded equality, while in some cases, prevalent governments took appropriate measures to avoid taint.

It hadn't yet settled in Middle East when the world saw a small protest turn into a popular movement in New York, USA, which was coined as “Occupy Wall-Street”, which is still an active movement against inequality and lack of transparency by wealthy bankers and elitists. The result of the NY movement drew people out of their homes across the Atlantic Ocean, right in Europe with protests in Italy, Spain, Germany, United Kingdom, along with few other European countries that were also swept by massive show of anger and agitation.

The second largest country, India, with over 1.25 billion population and regarded as one of the most vibrant economies even in times of recession, couldn't stay immune from a popular struggle against corruption and inequality of wealth. The Anna Movement, as it has been named by people alike, is a struggle to pass a bill in the parliament to completely eradicate the problem of corruption, like cash stashed into Swiss and other foreign bank accounts of politicians, army generals and bureaucrats. Anna Hazare, now a famous activist around the world, took a way of hunger strikes to buckle knees of his government.

'Wedding Bells'

The last time the world saw a 'fairytale' wedding of a Prince and Princess, originating from the British Royal family, it was way back in 1981. This year on 29th April, it was the son – Prince Williams, now Dukes of Cambridge - of that Prince Charles and Princess Diana who was to tie knot, to a beautiful, yet humble, Catherine Middleton, now Duchess of Cambridge. The wedding bells in the palace was seen in the media with positivity to rekindle the lost magic of Royal Family, as the estimates of the global audience for the wedding varied between 300 million to 2 billion, while 24.5 million watched the wedding live in the United Kingdom. The other significance of the wedding is that, Prince Williams is regarded as the second in line, after his father, to the throne of sixteen sovereign states known as the Commonwealth realms.

The newly-wed Royal Couple pose for a photograph, with broad smiles and arm-in-arm
'Bid farewell'

2011 saw a number of deaths of high-profile personalities that started in the first week of January with the death of the Governor of Punjab, Pakistan, Salman Taseer when he was shot dead by his own security guard (Mumtaz Qadri) on 4th January, in broad daylight, who disagreed with Taseer's opposition to Pakistani blasphemy laws. As much as the death of the Governor stirred controversy in Pakistan and abroad, it was the awarding of death sentence by Pakistan's Anti-Terrorism Court to Mumtaz Qadri that set the stages, shows and columnists abuzz with debates.

And things hadn't been entirely stable in Pakistan when on 2nd May, the world's most wanted terrorist was killed in a garrison town of Pakistan, Abbottabad, by US Navy Seals who dropped into the compound of Osama bin Laden, where he had been residing with his two wives and children. The killing attracted worldwide attention, as the man responsible for September 11, as per US claims, was eliminated. The purpose for the invasion of Afghanistan, that also became the reason for scores of deaths on either side of the borders as well as international soldiers, was Osama bin Laden and with his death US may claim to have achieved for what they had set their foots on a sovereign state, Afghanistan. Doubts and rumours did rounds with many skeptical about Osama's death, as some claimed that he was dead long time back. It also set the internal-circles of Pakistan on fire with blame being put on the powerful military establishment failing to stop an foreign intrusion, while the military countered in their defense that “at least the army wasn't aware of OBL's presence nor US operation to kill him”.

The compound, where bin Laden lived, that came under attack by US elite operational force
The struggle in the Middle East also saw the end – a rather gruesome death – of one of the most eccentric and certainly, the longest serving Arab ruler, Muammar Gaddafi. The self-obsessive and autocratic leader had been in the news for a number of reasons as he ruled over Libya for 42 years. However, the man who ruled his people with an iron fist, was brought down in the most blood chilling manner, when he was reported to have succumbed to his injuries but there were numerous other reports that claim that he was actually killed by the rebel fighters.

Apart from assassinations, operations and struggles, the world saw deaths of popular leaders due to natural causes, like the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Sultan bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud on 22nd October and North Korea's Supreme Leader, Kim Jong-il on 17th December.

The world of technology and business was also set back with the loss of two of the most futuristic innovators, who incidentally happened to die in the same month, separated only by a week. They are Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple, (on 5th October) and Dennis Ritchie, computer scientist who created C programming language and Unix operating systems (on 12th October). It was contrasting to observe the coverage and footage received to both the deaths, while Jobs got all recognition, accolades and tribute on his death, Ritchie who has been credited to have “shaped the digital era” hardly got any. In fact, it won't be entirely wrong to say that many weren't aware of this man, let alone of this death. To say anything about Jobs and his contribution would be equal to speck of dust but it would be worthwhile to mention what some said about Richtie, as Paul E. Ceruzzi, a Computer historian, once said after Ritchie's death that “Ritchie was under the radar. His name was not a household name at all, but if you had a microscope and could look in a computer, you'd see his work everywhere inside.”

“To have total safety – that is impossible.” Speaking to journalists, Michael Schumacher, the seven-time Formula One world champion, said these words while referring to the deaths of Dan Wheldon and Marco Simoncelli who both died on the track while racing - and incredibly, in the same month -  on 12th October and 23rd October, respectively. It was a shocking multi-car collision that quickly turned into a death trap for Wheldon in an IndyCar race in Las Vegas, when his car launched into the air, crashing into the fences. Simoncelli was killed in the MotoGP race in Malaysia when the biker lost control of his bike and slid into the path of approaching racers. With the loss of two very talented and, in the case of Simoncelli, up-coming racers, the motor sport was certainly regarded poorer by the fans and experts.

It came as equally shocking when the world heard the death of Jackie Chan and Bon Jovi, but they were quickly rubbished as hoaxes. But there was no such hoax when the news broke out of deaths of Amy Winehouse, a celebrated, yet infamous, British pop-star, and Moin Akhter, renowned and versatile Pakistani actor. Winehouse's demise came as a shock for most, while for others, it was inevitable as the 27-year old had a long-standing problem of alcohol and drug-abuse, that finally took her life on 23rd July. It was the news of Akhter's death that left the world of entertainment saddened, especially in Indian subcontinent where he was hugely popular for his comic timing and his dynamic ability to impersonate innumerable personalities and characters. He died on 22nd April after suffering a heart attack.

Writhing Global Economy

Indeed the global economy has had a start-stop year with the US Dollar fast losing its value in the world market and investors increasingly concerned and fidgety about prospects of future growth. The prices of oil and gold also experienced astronomic fluctuation with no set pattern in the changes of their prices.

The debts woes sprung up in the Europe with no concrete measures and steps taken to avoid the eventual collapse of the Euro, while US also had its AAA credit rating slashed from Standard & Poor in August, for the first time ever in the wake of a political battle as the world's largest economy struggled to reverse unemployment, reduce government's budget deficit and rising debt burden.

There is a real sense of uncertainty that prevails in the global market about  commodity prices, with US and European economies on the brink of collapse and the Arab Spring also showing its ugly side as it has had a direct effect on the attitude of investors. In simple words, US and European countries have their tasks cut out in 2012 where they will have to make every effort to cough life into their dying economies so that their drowning currencies can stay afloat in international markets and world leaders for a quick and amicable solution to wrest control in the Middle East.

Wave of Death and Disaster

One fine morning in the north-east of Japan on 11th March, escalated into a deplorable afternoon for locals and a source of grievance for the world over who watched a massive undersea earthquake of 9.0 magnitude triggering into one of the most ugliest  ever known tsunami on their television screens in awe and fear. The horrifying images and disturbing videos that the audience saw was an enough testimony to the fact that this was the most powerful earthquake ever to hit in Japan, and the fifth most powerful in the world ever since record-keeping has been maintained. It was further revealed, to accentuate the intensity of the earthquake, that it shifted the Earth on its axis by an estimated 4 in to 10 in. The result of the earthquake, and the resulting tsunami, was that it left more than 15,800 dead, nearly 6,000 injured and almost 3,500 missing. Furthermore, according to an estimate of the World Bank, the tsunami caused a loss of $235 billion, making it the most expensive natural disaster in the known history of the world.
The destruction that brought the Tsunami, as 10km of land-mass remained inundated
However things refused to die down for Japanese, as 4.4 million people were left with no electricity and 1.5 million without drinking water. Apart from that, the news that kept feeding onto every news-room table was the nuclear accidents that took the meltdown of nuclear reactors and radiation level at the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant complex beyond the limit, rendering an area of 50 km radius useless.

It was gravely moving to note that a natural disaster of that magnitude shook the foundations of one of the most advanced nations on earth, which was able to significantly reduce the number of human loss by alerting a minute prior to the disaster struck on the shores of Sendai, Japan, but couldn't stop the nature from unleashing itself.

The other event that made headlines was the US forces withdrawal from Iraq, after an 8-year of rather, questionable war that saw loss of innocent lives, hike in oil prices, instability in the region and a plunge in the world market, all in the name of Weapons of Mass Destruction that never existed in the first place.

Other secondary event that caught the attention in 2011 was a shift in US policy towards the Taliban, with the name of Mullah Omar finally being crossed out from FBI's Most Wanted List in order to bring an end to a decade-long war that has yielded little in the objective set by US and its allies, or perhaps they've come to understand that after bin Laden's death, there is little to chase for in Afghanistan.

Although, many who would consider 2011 as an unnerving year, but a bloc in Middle East that had been under the hammer of dictators for years has finally been freed. Though, it is equally imperative that the revolution doesn't spin out of control and the people are given for what they stood up and sacrificed their own lives. The revolution that we saw is a fine example for a country like Pakistan that have been under suspicious rulers, that take more and give next to nothing. In addition, it's a welcoming news to see US draw back itself and its policies in the region, to make way
for peace.

It is a significant year that lies ahead as a crippling global economy hinges on the world leaders' reconstructive decisions to be made, while common man searches in dark for peace and security for himself and his family. The ongoing struggle to topple Bashar Al-Assad's regime in Syria may look far-fetched but there is little to suggest that it would last forever.

In truth, it raises a question as to whether the struggle and violence of 2011 would continue to mar the next year or whether 2012 would soon see the new dawn of peace, freedom and equality?

No comments:

Post a Comment