2011: The Defining Year of a Generation?
Despite it only being April, 2011 has been packed full of so many world changing events, the media have had to completely sideline some to deal with others! In this article, I intend to look at a few broad types of events, which I believe will have massive consequences in years to come!
1. Natural disasters – Whilst we are all particularly well informed about the tragic earthquake and tsunami that devastated Japan, killing over 18,000, it is easy to forget the magnitude 6 earthquake which devastated Burma, the floods currently devastating Thailand, and more importantly the flooding and forest fires in Australia. There was even a minor earthquake in the UK just yesterday! Whilst events like this happen year in, year out, it is the magnitude of events in Australia and Japan that has taken the world by surprise, with both events exceeding any prior recorded ones of their kind and taking place in huge economic hubs, as opposed to poor third world countries! Clearly in future more thought will have to be put into prediction and defences against these kinds of incident.
2. Fuel dependence and nuclear power – With the nuclear panic caused by the Fukushima meltdown and soaring oil prices due to the Middle Eastern protests, 2011 seems set to be a benchmark year in green investment and energy. As the unavailability of oil as a long term fuel is driven home, alongside the risks of nuclear power, surely something will have to change, and when it does the events of 2011 will doubtless feature strongly in a list of reasons why.
3. Freedom of press – In terms of freedom of the press, there have been several focal points in 2011, from coverage of uprisings to whistle-blowing to plurality of the press! Whilst in some ways the media have been able to gain more access to revolts than before, in cases like that in Libya, it is still hard to say they have any true freedom. They are unable to film protests/battles for safety purposes and unable to freely interview people or even roam the cities in areas still under control by Gaddafi, although in rebel held areas they do definitely have a lot more freedom. Whilst this is a minor victory for the free press, with networks like al jazeera sure to see their ratings skyrocket, a far bigger blow was dealt to plurality of the media slightly close to home for comfort. This was in Rupert Murdoch’s successful purchase of shares in BskyB, making him the dominant shareholder, and further expanding his already excessive media empire. Although this in itself is a big event, there is yet another battle being fought against Murdoch’s newspaper ‘The News of the World’, amidst a seemingly never ending list of claimants to be victims of hacking! Even more disturbing were the allegations that met officers investigating the case were wined and dined by news of the world executives before reaching their original and flawed conclusions, which were only rectified following public outcry into the scandal. If this wasn’t disturbing enough, an executive who was implicated in this scandal was working as a close advisor to David Cameron, despite him having knowledge of this information, which was suppressed from the press in a super injunction! If this painted a grim picture of the state of the free and independent press, things get worse not better when you look at the case of Julian Assange, founder of wikileaks, or even the alleged torture of Bradley Manning, the suspected leak. Despite not finding any law against him, Sarah Palin was quick to call for his treatment as a terrorist (he should be assassinated!), and now a highly suspect extradition case is taking place, which seems strongly politically motivated, and of which is currently under appeal based on the fact he lost his first extradition hearing. Whilst none of this is likely to immediately impact us, I’m sure in years to come, the far distant results of these events will play a dramatic role in shaping the world (as it is reported)!
4. Democratic Revolution – The successful uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, followed by subsequent uprisings and calls for protests in Yemen, Bahrain, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Palestine, Lebanon, Iraq, Afghanistan, China, Algeria and Libya to name just a few will doubtless be a memorable event in the history of the world, comparable even to the French Revolution, which shaped the Western world as we know it today. With a whole array of new, democratically elected leaders set to overtake the power structures of influential nations, it seems likely they will be only too keen to push for democratic reform for their neighbours too! If this were to occur, it will change the shape of the world as we know it, and not necessarily in a way which would be beneficial to the West and their allies, as you can see by Israel’s support of Mubarak in the hopes their peace treaty would be upheld, or Saudi Arabia’s deployment of troops to prop up Bahrain’s ruler, both of whom are key allies of both the US and England.. The days of double standards may fast be in decline, and the emergent powers may not be so keen to maintain friendly relationships with those who funded, supplied weapons to and propped up their former oppressors, no matter how big an aid cheque is sent their way in return for their co-operation.
In what other 3 months of modern history has such a variety of issues emerged, all of which will go on to shape the future of the world? Whilst I don’t think there are many contenders that could top this already greatly abbreviated list, apparently the world’s going to end next year! Let’s sit back and watch the fireworks.