From Congress’ partisan battles, to the toppling of Middle-East dictators, the near collapse of the European Union and the response of “Occupiers” to a growing global economic disparity, 2011 has been a year mostly of high-stakes drama and front-row tragedy.
As we prepare to take off for the Holidays, and recharge — mentally and physically — for 2012 (see below), we leave you with a round-up of a year of economic and political crises, home and away; a year when some progress happened, but most things didn’t work.
WikiLeaks set the world of free information alight, leaking hundreds of thousands of cables, and putting founder Julian Assange (and Bradley Manning) in a lot of international hot-water. The too-much-information hacking scandals of News of the World also brought an 168-year-old institution of British news to its knees.
Elsewhere, Hurricane Irene ravaged the East Coast, Dominique Strauss-Kahn was held under house arrest in NYC (and then acquitted), and Gabrielle Giffords made a miraculous recovery, well enough even to return to Congress (!), after being shot at a rally in Arizona.
Because nothing was working, this year was also very much the year of protests, and as the TIME person of the year highlights, “The protester”. First there was the Arab Spring Uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Syria (among others), overturning decades of dictatorships in the Middle East, then the sad intersection of a disgruntled youth population in the London Riots, and most captivatingly the ongoing protests of Occupy Wall Street against the economic malaise, and their year-defining slogan of the 99% (against the unparalleled riches of the 1%).
What about the world of business and technology?
Amidst the bankruptcy of large swathes of Europe, and the spectacular explosion of MF Global, the IPOs of Zynga, Yelp and Groupon offered rays of hope. As did the iPad 2, the iPhone 4S and Google’s Android services.
What was Congress doing?
You mean apart from locking horns in endless partisan battles? A new patent law was inaugurated, transforming the American system from first-to-invent, to first-to-file. And that, sad to say, was pretty much it. Healthcare, the debt-ceiling, the American jobs act and the payroll tax all fell under the spell of an ideological and immobile Congress this year.
What did the nine (yes, nine, Rick Perry) Justices have to say in 2011?
(or in the case of Justice Thomas, not say)
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas continued his five-year silence during oral arguments, but the Court as a whole made sweeping judgements on the issues of class action and free speech. Between Walmart v. Dukes, and AT&T v. Concepcion, class action against corporations was given an almighty kick to the stomach. As for the First Amendment, speech, however disagreeable, should be, and was protected. From the funeral protests of Westboro Baptist Church to the rejection of a California ban on selling violent video games to minors, the First Amendment was elevated once-again as a foundational pillar of the American democracy.
Looking forward to 2012?
You bet we are.
Between the U.S. national election, an explosive Supreme Court docket looking at state immigration policies, universal health care and GPS tracking, to Springtime for the Occupiers, Europe’s new austerity and the Tea Party’s first presidential cycle, next year is set to be just as “interesting” (as the Chinese proverb goes…) as 2011.
Happy Year End, to you and yours, and we can’t wait to watch 2012 unfold!