February 29
I've worked for a big multi-national, lived abroad for several years, travelled a lot, now in politics. Married once but separated; no kids. Generally utilitarian except for minority rights.


Abrawang's Links

Travel Posts
My Links
Other OSer Posts
DECEMBER 30, 2011 7:56AM

2011 – As Remarkable As It Seems To Me?

Rate: 17 Flag

            There’s a general tendency to ascribe to one’s own lifetime a degree of exception unrivalled by any other generation.  As a boomer that means The Beatles achieved a musical epitome unmatched since Mozart, or maybe it was rolled over Beethoven.  For Dylan you had to go back to Shakespeare in the alley.  And while we kind of knew that we didn’t invent sex, surely we could lay claim to its oral and positional varieties.  Kama Sutra you say?  Well, we were reanimating and enhancing lost values.  Or so it goes.  Thus it’s with some trepidation that I make the case that 2011 will be viewed as a year more remarkable than most.

            Start with the death of tyrants.  Gadhafi, Kim Jong-il and bin Laden.  Quite the hat trick.  Good guys like Vaclav Havel, Steve Jobs and Chris Hitchens weren’t spared either.  No disrespect meant to women or cultural phenomenons like Elizabeth Taylor, Amy Winehouse or Cesaria Evora but their deaths won’t be viewed as historically important.

            Then there was the triple threat catastrophe of earthquake-tsunami-meltdown in Japan.  In terms of immediate deaths it was dwarfed by the 2004 tsunami that killed a quarter million in south-east Asia.  But its consequence may be greater.  Shortly thereafter Germany suspended all nuclear projects which could have grave implications for carbon energy alternatives and global warming.


            The worldwide occupations deserve a mention.  It’s been a long while since we’ve seen global movements protesting for the same cause.  That is, the ever-growing imbalance between the rich and everyone else.  While it’s unclear at the end of 2011 whether this movement will last, it highlights a trend that isn’t going away anytime soon and one that undermines social justice and democracies everywhere.  But the remedies are complicated and whether, in the U.S. for instance, they’ll be able to approach the political influence of the Tea Partians (thank you Tom Cordle) is doubtful.

            It’s more than a little out of the ordinary that Britain’s biggest selling newspaper gets shut down over a phone hacking scandal, while the likely next president of France is knocked out of the race when he may or may not have raped a hotel maid.  In Iraq, a war is over, sort of.  Will a civil variety take its place?  Closer to home the Republicans continued their descent into madness.

            But two 2011 occurrences are apt to have multi-decade ramifications.  One is the Euro crisis.  It hasn’t had nearly the attention it merits, at least on this side of the pond.  Here on OS only old new lefty has given it much play.  Very briefly, at risk is the survival of the Euro and the EEC as we know it.  A few short term “fixes” have come and gone, the UK now has maneuvered itself into a sideline position and a main proposed remedy emphasizing balanced budgets with penalties for non-compliance has already drawn criticism for its anti-Keynesian implications.  It’s no better than a coin flip that the Euro will remain the common currency of most countries and that a more severe recession will be avoided.  With today’s globally linked economies, this can only exacerbate the U.S.’s profound economic challenges.

            The Arab spring is hugely consequential.  Dictatorships in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen and Libya were toppled and Syria’s is teetering.  We all welcome greater democracy.  But the great unknown is how well it will take root.  Egyptians have elected the Muslim Brotherhood who have pledged to allow a decent level of civil liberties.  The second party, the Salafists, received close to 25% support.  They would ban alcohol, require women to wear the burqa, and segregate the genders in school.  It’s an open question whether the new Mid-East democracies will wind up following a Turkish or an Iranian-style governance.  In either case it creates much uncertainty in Israel and its steadfast supporters here.

            A few issues will be of great import soon enough, though they just chugged along in 2011.  For the fourteenth consecutive year far too little was done to prevent global warming.  I sincerely hope that right wing columnists, the oil industry, its astroturf groups and its band of eager dupes and spinners are correct in contending there’s nothing that can be done because it’s either not happening (a favorite argument in 2009 after 2008’s temperatures were depressed by El Niño) or that it’s a natural cycle on which carbon emissions have no bearing.  I do hope they’re right and I hope too that they tell their friends and family, especially the younger members; how they’re doing everything they can to thwart efforts at reducing carbon emissions.  Just so deserved credit can later be accorded.

            A pre-emptive nuclear strike against Iran took another step forward with a couple of Republican candidates signing up.

            I caught a snippet of an interview where Janet Napolitano said that one of their biggest worries was a dirty bomb being smuggled in and set off.  Back in the 70s I reckoned it was a matter of time that a powerful nuclear device could someday fit into a suitcase and that come that day, how long before some glory-seeker with a cause would feel destined to use it.  It hasn’t happened yet but…

            On a cheerier note, has anyone been following the breakthroughs in 3D printing?  In fact, “printing” is a misnomer.  It’s using a printer-like device that deploys a wide range of chemicals to create any 3D object that can be modeled on a computer.  This will revolutionize manufacturing everywhere.  Check out The Economist’s articles here and here.

            I’ll take this opportunity to wish the OS community a happy New Year.  And a special shout-out to the extraordinary number celebrating their birthdays tomorrow.  It wouldn’t be a New Year’s post without some party music, so…




Your tags:


Enter the amount, and click "Tip" to submit!
Recipient's email address:
Personal message (optional):

Your email address:


Type your comment below:
2011 seemed pretty inconclusive - few clear decisions, no clear trends. The Arab Spring and the Occupy movements are the big question marks for me. The standoff with Iran is what worries me most. 2012 will be a big year for me, though - a move and some new professional directions, so I'm looking ahead!

Alan, I think that the Arab spring is lasting change. That is, I don't think we'll see a return to the strong man dictatorships of Mubarak and Ghaddafi. You're right that the sabre rattling over Iran is quite worrying. Good luck on your move. Is it within Germany or a new country?
Just across Berlin, but sharing a flat with my gf is a big step. The 3D idea is pretty interesting. I wish there were a 3D fax machine, jumbo size, so that I could just fax my stuff across town and not bother with a van!
A strange year indeed. But a year that will go down in history as a period of the beginning, or ending, of some type of change. We are either going forward, or back, but my friend, standing still is not an option. Ж
Quite comprehensive. I agree with you that the Eurozone crisis is underreported, underconsidered, and underdiscussed here. Goodbye 2011, hello 2012, and good luck to us all.
Interesting I think it's been a really odd year. r. for thoughtful.
It was indeed a most remarkable and often quite disturbing year. You captured its essence quite well.
jane – My selfish consolation is that I won’t live long enough to see the worst of global warming. While the mostly non-adhered to Kyoto Protocol was premised on keeping warming to less than 2 degrees centigrade, there has always been an outside chance that the increase could be 4-6 degrees. So much so fast will have devastating effects and trying to reverse course is like trying to quickly change the course of a large ship at high speed. Well, let’s hope that 2012 has a few nice surprises.

Alan – I get back twinges when I hear about someone moving. Good luck with it.

scanner – I tried to imagine what historians 50 years hence might say about this year. Wonder what we’ll be writing a year from now. Best of luck on your writing and here’s hoping your pain miraculously abates.

Paul – I guess that part of the reason is because it’s so complicated. Bond guarantees and giving the Euro bank more Fed-like powers etc. Second your good luck wishes.

JW – Odd but more consequential than most. And watch the superlatives roll in the 2012 election year. Looks like it’ll be about the 15th consecutive most important of a generation.

Mary – Thanks very much. Maybe 3D printing will help cut down industrial emissions enough to save us all. Happy New Year to you.
This is an amazing overview! I wonder what you will write next year...
Hi Susie. I have a few more travel stories and somewhere along the line I'll chip in on the presidential campaign. Aside from that, beats me. I never expected to take up blogging so there's no roadmap.
I would like one year to go by without major change. Not going to happen I know.. But sometimes I think we just need a break and to stop and smell the air. Polluted as it might be maybe we wold learn to get along.
Happy New year and huggggggggggg
Nice roundup. It was indeed a very good and very bad year.
Thank you, Abrawang, this is a good summation of the year we're about to leave behind with its hat tricks and other memories. None of us has a crytal ball to see into the future; we can only evaluate each year in retrospect. As my mother always said:

"Rest not what you've become, but question what you will be."

A very happy 2012 to you!

What Lea said. Nice roundup. If I might add another issue that has become the darling of environmentalists, but really does merit further consideration: fracking. Do you know how much water is required to tease out remnant oil from shale? As it turns out, A LOT. And this fracking business is gaining traction across the arid West, where the Colorado River and the Continental Divide can barely spare another drop for the increasingly thirsty millions of people who live in California, Nevada, Arizona, Montana, Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, etc. Now, oil barons will divert our already scarce resource toward leeching out every drop of oil they can exploit. Then there's the little issue of all of the horrible chemicals infused into the land to improve their chances of pulling out even more fossil fuels. R
Linda – I’m not disagreeing with the sentiment but 2012 doesn’t look like it will be the year with few major changes. The Arab Spring & the Euro crisis will play out, the recession sure isn’t over and could get worse, and then there’s the election. Good luck to us all.

Lea – My favorite quote is the opening sentence of Tale of Two Cities: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…in short it was very much like the present.”

Fusun – A wise mother you had, with some genetic influences passed along. Happy 2012 to you too.

Deborah – Fracking is certainly worthy of mention. It should feature on those lists of under-reported stories of the year and there’s apt to be great controversies over its continued deployment. Thanks for citing it.
Loved your first three sentence intro here, Abra. It was quite a year and though we saw the fall of tyrants, it was definitely not one of my personal favourites. Hoping 2012 is better, it is bound to be significant -- but I guess they all are in one way or another.

Happy New Year to you!
Scarlett - Thanks very much. I hope the Christmas season was good to you and all the best for 2012.
Thanks for the reminder of where we have just been. heres looking forward to a clean slate again. Thanks so much and HNY!
Very well done. I too worry about the economic crisis in Europe and the instability in the Middle East. Whatever happens "there" effects what happens here. I am fascinated by 3D communication.

"Man says...I just heard the Martians have a nuclear bomb which is aimed at earth...Oh my God...I don't know what to do...I'll have to move!"
The EU is my biggest concern because I live in Germany and the euro rate against the dollar is - well sad.

The costs are great here and yet no real unrest. I drive around and see plenty of shopping cars in line at every gas station, Autobon dressed in fancy cars, but I still think the EU crisis is hurting the average German family because when I buy I buy a buggy full of food and use large denominations, but the people in front of me buy a few items and count out their change. I know its cultural, but its the change that I look at the most as telling indication that frugal is as frugal does.

As to your assessment of 2011, I think economically, politically and socially (US poverty, income disparity, childhoods living in constant hunger in the richest nation) is just going to get worse- much more worse. I don't think this is a Recession, but a Depression and I see economic growth in the US stalling like Japan's Lost Decade in the 90's.

I really like what you had to say and how it was said. Enjoy that 3D printer you just bought!!!
Algis – Just noticed your comment today. HNY back atcha.

Ande – of all the splashy news stories in 2011, those two are likely to have profound and lasting effects. And that 3D print-casting sure sounds amazing.

Mango – I might have devoted more space to the rich-poor divide. It’s a process that been underway for about 30 years, starting under Reagan. As for the Euro-crisis, it’s looking less and less likely that they’ll be able to reconcile Germany’s unwillingness to underwrite what they see as moral failures regarding deficits, with the drastic consequences of a series of defaults. There’s still time but not much.
'11 was an intense year both globally as well as for me personally. As for the seismic changes put in motion this past year, I think they will lay the groundwork for what is to come. I'm hoping for the best but bracing for the worst.
Various, I hope it was personally intense in a good way. Looking forward to more of your reviews in 2012.