The year 2011 will be remembered as a dramatic and tough year. It was jolting and, in general, not pleasant for many.
It started with a very significant, historic uprising in the Arab world and ended with the American pullout from Iraq after nine years of occupation, although it was mission unaccomplished.
There is uncertainty about how the new year will look with the financial crisis deepening, spreading from America to the rest of the world and finally hitting Europe in its bone. There are no signs of recovery.
The European Union is looking shaky for the first time and about to break into pieces. The American economy is in a shambles, there is political uncertainty and the Middle East has witnessed a historic uprising. The future is uncertain. We cannot predict what it will hold, but we can say uncertainty will loom large over 2012.
Let's talk about this one by one. The Arab uprising, it might be argued, was a people's movement — it happened for the first time in history. People wanted 100 per cent power in their hands. But the question worrying many, including me, is: will power rest in the hands of the people or land with those who will hijack the power and struggle of the people? By this I clearly mean Islamist power, which rose in Tunisia and has travelled to Egypt so far. The rest will follow. The fear is that the fruits of the uprising, which started with youngsters seeking jobs, dignity and a better life, will be reaped by the Islamists. Will these Islamists be similar to Turkey's Justice and Development Party ?
Building real nations
I doubt this because Arab Islamists are not like Turkish Islamists. They are mentally and culturally different. Turkey's Justice and Development Party believes in the ideals of democracy and secularism. To those who are optimists, I say wait for five years and see. I hope I am wrong. And if that happens, what a waste it would be for Arabs. It was their real opportunity to build real nations based on democracy and justice.
Europe, despite being hit by a deepening crisis of debts, has dynamism, energy and strength to overcome its troubles. It is not ‘old Europe' as described by former US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld. The problem, in fact, is the biggest economy in the world — America. That is where the crisis started. It bore its debts on its shoulders with more and more companies going bankrupt every day. The worry is the US — it seems to be growing old.
The economies and power of China and East Asian countries are growing. If China can survive the crisis — and until now it is in good shape — then we might witness the beginning of a shift in power in 2012, which we have been talking about for a long time. But would that shift in power be admitted by the US and western countries? Would this admission be made peacefully or would capitalism conjure up a crisis to stop the shift?
So, looking back at 2011 is not a pleasurable journey at all. The turmoil, the cracks and fissures in the global system, the economic crisis and other turn of events remind us of the beginning of the 20th century when all the events led to war. It does not mean that history repeats itself in the same way, but that the events we have witnessed during 2011 and all their negative impacts are a real cause for concern.
I was thinking aloud with some colleagues about what was good in 2011, but I could hardly think of anything. If readers can think of some events and write to me, I would be delighted. The world's population even shot up to seven billion. This too left us with mixed feelings — is it a good or bad thing in light of depleting resources and global warming? In the end, there were more worries.
On the individual front, I do not think there is a single person in the world who did not feel the after-effects of the events. He is also caught between a rock and a hard place. Inflation, spiralling prices, shrinking incomes — all took their toll. So I think there will not be any individual who will remember 2011 fondly. But certainly getting rid of some of the worst dictators in the world, toppling them and bringing others to justice was, of course, not bad at all. There, under these ashes, lies the fire of hope for people worldwide to stand up against what destroys their lives and causes trouble and misery to them — be it in the form of dictators, individuals or institutions built over the years to just control human beings and siphon money into the pockets of a few.
It was not a coincidence in history that the Arab people stood against dictators or that American and European activists protested against Wall Street and other financial institutions in a symbolic way, to highlight how dictatorship can be replaced by institutions, and not people.
Hence, in my opinion, this little hope that sprung in 2011 will brighten 2012 and build a strong foundation for people. There will be strong pillars in society, so history can wipe out from people's lives dictatorship and slavery — be it direct or indirect.