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"Goodbye 2011 - Events that shook the world"
by Dimitra Karantzeni
2011-12-27 11:13:47
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The year that has passed was above all, full of significant events, some of which have completely changed the course of history. For save-spacing reasons, I aim to focus on those that, in my opinion, drastically changed the international socio-political and economical arena.

Starting with the political turbulences in the middle-East and North Africa, known as the ‘Arab Spring’, the international community watched the Arab world struggling to overthrow the autocrats - through numerous intense protests on the central squares and elsewhere, most of which developed into bloodbaths - , and finally, the dissolution of consolidated oppressive regimes, in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen.

An important issue that must be highlighted, though, is the new means that were used during these revolutionary acts, totally unprecedented and maybe a little bit awkward, regarding the specific cultural elements that characterize the Arab World, especially their expressed resistance to modernization. The internet, and particularly the social media, like Facebook and twitter, played an important role in the organization of the protests, and of every other kind of massive opposition to the predominant leaderships. Hundreds of groups were created per day, reaching thousands of members or followers, profoundly explaining why in many cases, the governments even cut all internet service and mobile lines. This was, I guess, a rather irrational move, an attempt to react vigorously to an unknown situation , to respond – in vain -  to an extended crisis, formulated at last, as an ‘’electronic intifada’’, whose actions were impossible to reach and manage. It was, undoubtedly, a major step forward for the new communication technologies, which drastically entered the battle field and gave their users the opportunity to transform the tools of massive, direct communication, into a key element of war strategy.

Of course, the role of the external intervention, especially of the USA is undeniable, as it has once again, systematically manipulated the revolts, in the name of global peace.  No one doubts for example, that the Arabian uprisings had a central national basis, but still, the pieces of information spread all over the world would ensure us that America’s help in the development of networking and mobile technologies - baptized as promising methods to promote democracy – weren’t but underground diplomatic efforts to cultivate the ground for revolution.

However, history is probably being repeated, as the same military powers that made the authoritarian leaders resign, instead of accepting their temporary, transitional nature (e.g. Egypt); seem to have already created a new kind of dictatorship, using similar oppressive means to maintain power. Nevertheless, that’s not quite surprising, whether we take into account the bloody past of North Africa, full of massacres and attempts of mutual extermination. Kaddafi’s fierce execution, for example, apparently shows us that cruelty and brutality are already integral parts of the Arab mentality, regardless of who is at the time the perpetrator or the victim, and that there’s a long way to go before these people fully conceptualize the value of human entity as well as the necessity to totally respect it, even in time of war. This is beyond all cultural specifies, fundamental for the survival of a civilization and above all, the minimum indication of humanity, which differentiates human beings from wild, bloodthirsty animals.

Now on the other side of the map, United States’ economy was severely hit, as its national debt on August 3 has risen to $238 billion, being the largest one-day increase in its history, actually surpassing 100 percent of gross domestic product for the first time since World War II.  At the same time, on August 5, Standard & Poor's credit rating agency downgraded the long-term credit rating of the United States government for the first time in its history, from AAA to AA+, and the US joined a group of countries whose public debt exceeds their GDP. This uncertain financial situation, the so called ‘debt-ceiling crisis’, that radically put US economy on the brink of default, was mostly resolved with the establishment of an intense cut-spending policy, instead of increasing the debt ceiling. It was, after all, a rather unpleasant surprise for all those investors dependent on the prosperous federal and its internationally accepted currency. A downfall that revealed the fragile and unstable character of the US economy, which on the one hand, supported and raised the profile of invincibility, and on the other hand, transformed its budget surplus, in just a decade, into a really dangerous fiscal deficit. Finally, the years of irresponsible squandering of billions of dollars of public wealth, so as to finance major military projects in Iraq and Afghanistan, together with lots of tax cuts, the costs of pre-election world campaigns and most of all, the need to face the mortgage crisis and save the country from total economic devastation, were more than enough to affect its international credibility and make its egoistic grandiosity collapse.

Last but not least, EU goodbyes 2011 not only unable to cope with an extra sovereign financial crisis, but also incompetent to raise one common voice and with a democratic deficit which really puts in question its maintenance and future development on a stable basis.

The continuous creation of large save packages, vis a vis an intense unwillingness of the most wealthy EU members to continue to unconditionally finance the Eurozone’s weakest economies, globally known as P.I.G.S. (Portugal, Ireland, Greece and Spain), and the formers’ insufficiency to serve their debt obligations, even leading to major strategic failures, like the Greek referendum proposal, can more or less summarize one of the most crucial years in the days of the European Union. 

The wave of general disapproval, with opinion polls showing support for the Union at a historic low, certifies that the odds are against us, and that perhaps EU has just completed a vicious circle, which instead of transforming her into an extra powerful and unique political formation, has gradually led her to a stalemate, who can’t be easily overtaken. EU’s promising prospects, inspired by her founding fathers, to create a great ‘sui generis’ unity, a united international community, whose members would not only share a common monetary policy, but mainly, a common identity that would provide its people the notions, the moralities and the cultural characteristics they all dreamed to identify themselves with, has been lost during the struggle for more and more enlargement.

However, one could logically state that it’s somehow utopia for a unity to enhance its bonds and move to the next step of self-integration, when its key components– and that would certainly be its leaders – are moved by many conflicting ambitions, as well as dream of a different prospect of the Union, which best expresses and fulfils the particular interests of their national agenda.  EU’s fatigue derives from the fact that, EU leaders not only have failed to compromise the existing differences between national welfare systems but mostly missed the train of providing themselves with the necessary dynamism to unify the contradictory European perspectives, like the German multilateralism approach or the Anglo-Saxon ethnocentric one.  Although, given that the numerous institutional amendments didn’t successfully served the purpose of reinforcing EU, we inevitably lead to the conclusion that instead of just reforming treaties, it’s high time that the EU elites admitted their failure of creating a viable European socio-political model, and then work in the direction of inspiring another one. If they choose not to take seriously into consideration to this ultimatum, it’s very probable to see, sooner or later, everything collapsing before their eyes.

To sum up, 2011, was a really hard year for almost everyone in the world, but there’s always the bride side of life: after having – or having not – surpassed all those historically difficult times that lied in the year that has passed, we can still hope that 2012 holds more optimistic prospects and that people will eventually learn from their mistakes and make the world go round, as ‘’it takes both rain and sunshine to make rainbows’’…

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