The year that’s about to end has been tumultuous both nationally and internationally. In the Middle East, revolutions took seed, sometimes toppling entrenched powers within a matter of weeks, and setting off a global reaction. On every continent there has been protests over one apparent injustice or the other.
January demonstrations against food shortages and unemployment in Algeria and the leadership in Tunisia ignited a firestorm of disobedience around the world and throughout the year. There were massive protests against anti-union legislation in Wisconsin, a “slut walk” in Toronto (against blaming the victims of sexual violence) and an outcry against escalating violence in Mexico. There were protests against nuclear power in Japan and social injustices in Israel, and expressions of outrage over the economy and political gridlock in Spain and Greece. In Tibet they stood up against the Chinese, and in China, against a lack of democracy. People demonstrated for education reforms in Chile and against a questionable election in Russia. And the list goes on — including the Occupy Wall Street protest in New York City that spawned countless other similar demonstrations around the U.S. and the world.
No wonder Time magazine named “the protester” as the Person of the Year for 2011.
Undoubtedly, protests and demonstrations became far more commonplace this year, but the impact is not conclusive yet. Yes, Muammar Gaddafi is dead and gone, after more than 30 years ruling Libya, but what, or who, will govern that nation in the wake of his terrible regime remains an open question. Will democracy now flourish in the Middle East, or are the leadership voids to be filled with other dictators? We will begin to see the answers in 2012.
The Occupy movement is an example of the impending unknown.
Here in the U.S., we are experiencing the kind of political polarization that hamstrings Washington, D.C. — the federal government has become unable to respond to crises. Change is needed, but it doesn’t occur. Then comes a demand for a new approach to what’s causing America’s economic descent, and our elected leaders can’t offer anything more than rhetoric. So an election rolls around, it’s less than a year away now, but it won’t likely bring systemic change. The nation needs a way to replace the power of money with the power of the people, but it’s uncertain how, or if, that will come about.
In 2012, we’ll get a better idea of which direction we’re headed. One thing is for sure, the people will be speaking — and they’ll be heard, one way or the other, all over the world.