16 January 2012

2011 in review -- year of the masses

2011 was an amazing year. The intense interconnectedness which modern technology has brought to humanity world-wide made itself felt as never before, in a wave of mass protests that drew inspiration from each other despite vast geographical separation and cultural differences. It started in Tunisia, spread rapidly to Egypt and then the rest of the Arab world, then to Europe and our own country, and finally to Russia. Even in China, the tyrants are beginning to tremble.

The circumstances and issues in all these places were different, but the common thread remained. Cynicism, passivity, and defeatism faded before a new realization that ordinary people, organized and energized and determined, can challenge entrenched powers and institutions that seemed as solid and immovable as the Pyramids.

The Occupier movement in the US was a true mass protest. It was not organized or articulate, and it was never clear who, if anyone, spoke for it. But it drew together people of many different kinds who had grasped the central problem confronting our country today -- the explosive growth of inequality to obscene levels, and the destructive stranglehold of the financial parasite class on the economy. For most Americans, real incomes and security and prospects for upward mobility have stagnated and even declined, and we must fight back. The Occupiers may be short on solutions -- may even have created a distraction from real solutions -- but they have, at least, correctly identified the problem.

Originating in Canada but rapidly spreading through the US was another new protest movement, the SlutWalks, triggered by a single clueless police officer's remark that "women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized". This came to symbolize an omnipresent problem which is hard to define but which we all know when we see it -- the puritanical victim-blaming "slut-shaming" mentality which still taints and deforms sexuality even in our supposedly liberated times. All over North America, women marched to demonstrate that they could and would dress however they damn well pleased and that no one had any right to take it as an invitation, or excuse, for assault.

(Fellow males, do remember that we too have an interest here. Beyond the obvious fact that dressing revealingly does not make women legitimate targets of violence, if society keeps sending the message that it does, then they'll stop dressing revealingly -- and what a drag that would be.)

All these movements were denounced by the powers-that-be in the terms usual for reactionaries in the respective countries. From Cairo to Moscow, authoritarians blathered about foreign agitators (Qaddhafi's regime got so confused as to blame the Libyan revolt on both the US and al-Qâ'idah, unlikely co-conspirators). EU elites grumbled darkly about populism and nationalism. American right-wingers seemed to deal with the Occupiers by slipping into "damn those dirty hippies" mode, apparently forgetting which side from back in the sixties ended up being vindicated by history.

Victory is not yet complete, anywhere. In some Arab lands the old regimes still cling grimly to power with increasingly-bloody claws, while in others there is an ongoing struggle to protect hard-won revolutionary gains against theocratic or military reactionaries. The EU has ignored the mass anti-austerity protests in its member nations, though its grip on them is looking ever more shaky. In our country, the Occupier movement seems to be bifurcating -- an increasingly anarchist faction is descending into bullying of the working class like this and this and will eventually fade away, while the elements that want to achieve real change are joining forces with unions and learning how to work within the political system. And it's too early to tell how Russia and China will turn out.

But it's very hard to imagine the old passivity returning. There will be retreats and defeats, even serious ones, but in the long run the people will win.

Best wishes for the coming year to the newly-awakened world, and especially the people who started it all: the Arabs. I never thought you had it in you. I was wrong.

2011 also saw the deaths of three of the world's worst people -- Osama bin Laden, Muammar Qaddhafi, and Kim Jong Il -- as well as of one of its best. And a personification of evil we'd thought long buried -- Jim Crow -- rose up from the dead, in the form of blatant vote-suppression laws in state after state.

It was a year in which Ireland took a firm stand against evil (to the discontent of some), while many at Penn State embraced it.

Obama ended DADT, gay marriage came to New York state, the US Air Force started upholding the Constitution, the first computer more powerful than a human brain came on line, and yet another religious prophesy fell flat.

I'd like to end this post with a visual reminder of the right-wing contribution to America's national debate:

Just so we don't forget.


Blogger Ahab said...

An excellent retrospective. I want to see you blogging for a long time.

16 January, 2012 07:58  
Blogger okjimm said...

lest we forget is right.... there is still much to accomplish. Have a great Year 12

16 January, 2012 10:43  
Blogger Leslie Parsley said...

A really fine piece, Infidel, and I like your optimism - "in the long run the people will win." I wish I shared it but seeing those images at the end cause me to wonder "which people."

17 January, 2012 06:16  
Blogger Shaw Kenawe said...

Wonderful presentation. And I'm glad you had the intestinal fortitude to catalogue the racist emails from the right. This will be a good resource to use when I read this sort of nonsense on rightwing blogs:

"This is illustrative of much of the left. Vile hatred and not much else."

17 January, 2012 08:53  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Ahab: Thanks, I plan to.

Okjimm: And you as well.

LP: Luckily we're long past the days when such blatant, open racism is at all acceptable to most people. Even Ron Paul, a guy who normally doesn't shy away from embracing unpopular views, has resorted to denying that he wrote the notorious racist newsletters bearing his name. These pictures are just a reminder of what's under the rock when you turn it over.

SK: Yes, we're so hateful because we keep pointing out these inconvenient things they'd rather not talk about. And those images are just a sampling, of course.

Thanks for thye kind words, all.

17 January, 2012 09:09  
Blogger Four Dinners said...

Hello old bean and a belated Happy 2012 (assuming the Mayans are incorrect of course)..;-)

Great post old bean although I'm uncertain whether The Arab Spring might not just spring up and bite our necks...

I've a worrying feeling they've deposed several evil dictators only to find another evil take over....we'll see....one can only hope for the best eh?

Anyroad...enjoyed the read.

And good luck to Obama. I suspect he won't win again and I'll be sad about that. This Brit thinks he's a decent man and you don't get too many of those in politics eh?

Cheers mate

4D x

17 January, 2012 09:56  
Blogger Shaw Kenawe said...

Hi Infidel, this link is for your Sunday round-up. Thought you'd like it.

18 January, 2012 08:40  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

4D: Well, we'll see. The Arabs and Obama both have a fight ahead of them against the religious fanatics of their respective societies, but I'm betting both will prevail.

SK: Thanks, interesting project.

19 January, 2012 02:30  

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