A Happy New Year (albeit a day early) from Histor-C!
It’s natural for us all at this time of year to look back on a year gone by. What are we proud of? What would we sooner forget? What have we learnt? What will we even remember? By all accounts, 2011 has been fairly quiet for me- no real landmark moments beside seeing my new brother-in-law FINALLY marry my sister-in-law just two days before Christmas. Don’t get me wrong, not a bad year, just not a particularly eventful one!
The same will never be said for 2011 as a whole. Even in my short(ish) lifetime, I’ve lived through some historic events- the election of Nelson Mandela as South African President, Princess Diana’s death, Mad Cow Disease, 9-11, the rise and fall of a Labour government, Southgate missing that penalty at Euro ’96- things that you don’t forget.
But 2011 (twenty-eleven, not two thousand and eleven- get it right!) has been the most eventful year I can remember (hence the length of this post!). I’ve been hooked to the evening news like it was BAFTA award winning drama, reading the websites, following the twitter accounts- it seems to have been one landmark or catastrophe after another. The question remains though: what will we actually remember?
Some things are now forever etched into the history books- The “Arab Spring” probably ranks highest. Protests, civil wars and revolutions across areas of the Middle East and Northern Africa have seen political change unknown in the lifetimes of the under 30s, let alone students. From Murbarak to Gaddafi and the continuing turmoil in Syria, and despite the many tragedies, it has been gripping to watch, and its full effects are yet to be felt. The iconic moment in it all will inevitably be Gaddafi’s execution at the hands of his subjects. There are few moments in modern history where the people have rose up and so dramatically removed the tyrannical leadership of their country.
The catastrophe of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami will also not be forgotten. To see nature’s devastating power unfold on television, in a way not broadcast during the Boxing Day tsunami of 2004, was jaw dropping. Months later, I sat in a meeting with a Christian missionary working out in Japan, and to see some of the personal stories of the effects of the tsunami was very moving.
A more complicated, but just as important event in 2011 has been the Eurozone crisis. To see the effects of the economic plight felt by Greece, Portugal and Italy, the fall of three governments as a result, the downgrading of many a country’s credit rating, the controversy that a British veto brought about both home and abroad, and the fear that has gripped the global economy as a result, has been morbidly fascinating. It is of little surprise that their inability to sort these issues out ultimately comes down to one point- “how the heck do you sort this mess out”? It’s too early to say just how historic this will be without knowing the end of the story, or to say how significant this will be in a study of the early 21st century.
Just slipping into the contenders list for memorable events in 2011 is of course, the death of Kim Jong-Il. To see “first hand” (if you can call state TV “first hand”) the outpouring of grief/fear (delete as appropriate) across the country has been fascinating for those of us who enjoy studying the communist histories of the USSR or China, but are too young to have seen them for ourselves. By passing so late in the year, it is hard to be certain what impact this will have on the wider world, as his son Kim Jong-Un assumes control, in all likelihood under the leadership of his uncle Jang Sung-Taek, but again, more on this later!
The year has moved at such a pace that it’s easy to forget many of the events. Osama Bin Laden’s assassination was a landmark moment, yet it can be easy to forget it in the year that moved from Al-Qaeda to the Arab Spring. Again, the consequences of this are yet to be fully realised (but more on this in a moment!), but will this become more significant in time, if and when the threat of Al-Qaeda and the War on Terror is past.
On a domestic level, protests have played a big role in British news. From student marches to strikes, and who can forget the Occupy London movement at St. Paul’s cathedral? Whilst a lot of effort will in all probability achieve very little, a rise in “people power” (not quite on an “Arab Spring” level, but we are British after all!) has been fascinating to see.
However, the other, darker side of this coin of “people power” will be what is remembered most in the UK- the summer riots. To see how an initial cause was left by the wayside in favour of opportunistic theft and expressions of frustration, isolation and anger was troubling, but gripping ‘history-in-the-making’. I stayed up until 4am that night watching it unfold on the news and following new people on twitter. Despite it’s initial shock, the clues that this could one day happen are now easy to see in hindsight. The extent to which we are living in a broken society was the main topic of debate following the summer, and it is a question that, even if it is answered, will take longer to solve.
And there’s more (feel this is going to be a long post)! Who can forget (I almost did) the Royal Wedding! A wonderful occasion (yes, I am a Royalist!) which I hope will ultimately be remembered for the marriage of Wills and Kate rather than Pippa Middleton’s derrière! And the closure of ‘The News of the World’, with the Leveson enquiry that followed the phone hacking scandals. As shocked as we were, again it is 2012 and beyond that may bring about its true consequences, as we see how the outcomes of the enquiry shape the way that the media is regulated in the future.
These events, I believe, are the ones that will be truly remembered. Many others have occurred that, although perhaps remembered on a national level, may well be missed out in the big picture of 2011’s history. The tragedies in Norway involving Anders Breivik shocked us all, but could easily be forgotten by many outside Norway and the Scandinavian region in the future. So could the Russian plane crash that saw the loss of almost an entire ice hockey team.
From a celebrity point of view, the deaths of Amy Winehouse, Sir Jimmy Saville and Joe Frazier were mourned for, but will they be remembered in the years to come? Will we remember Arnold Schwarzeneger’s revelation about his illegitimate child, or the break up of Russell Brand and Katy Perry? In a word- no.
And what will 2012 have in store for us? Journalists have had their go, so why not Histor-C? The fallout of the Eurozone crisis will dominate, as will the US election. I predict that only one of these will go well! The 2012 Olympics will be a high point in Britain, along with the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations, but may also be a test of British security, and of the strength of Al-Qaeda following the demise of their figurehead. A close eye will need to be kept on North Korea, the fallout from the Arab Spring and Iran also. The Palestinian bid for statehood and continuing Middle East tensions should not be ignored either.
So what a year, and what a post- sorry, got a bit carried away! I hope you’ve enjoyed/tolerated my ramblings in the past year, it’s been a pleasure writing and sharing my humble thoughts with so many of you- here’s to just an eventful (but hopefully happier) 2012!