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Year of Controversies and Next Decade of Change
by Saberi Roy
2010-01-02 10:37:35
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Looking back at 2009, it has been an eventful and controversial year with Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize, Fake trials in Iran and Burma. Sarah Palin’s “Going Rogue”, EU Parliament Elections 2009, the UN summit on Climate Change, Michael Jackson’s Death, Obama’s Nobel War Speech, Tiger Woods Scandal and the other pressing issues of Health Care Bill, Troops in Afghanistan, Continued Recession and the fate of Gitmo detainees. The common denominator for all these events has been ‘controversy’ and the media created and fed these controversies and every turn of these events has been marked by ifs, buts and questioned, shredded and analyzed.

In Burma, Aung San Suu Kyi, the main opposition leader was released but as anyone would expect from the Burmese junta, her release was as fake as her trial which immediately followed as she was falsely tried for allowing visitors during her detention. Gordon Brown along with the European leaders condemned the trial of Suu Kyi as also her further detention which was orchestrated by the Burmese government to keep Suu Kyi away from power as long as possible. The junta tried the legal means through which they were successful but these legal routes were highly fabricated and Suu Kyi remains under house arrest. In Iran, President Ahmadinejad fraudulently came to power for a second term and a similar show trial of intellectuals, journalists, diplomats and opposition leaders were held by the Iranian regime in a show of power of Ahmadinejad’s government. There were forced confessions and false charges on acting against national security. Although international pressure has led to the release of some participants of the uprising that called for an end to Ahmadinejad’s power, many received imprisonment and death sentences in one of the worst crimes against humanity by a government. Iran and Burma and their governments remain the focus of the world and all talks of democracy point to human rights violations in these two countries, yet these controversial regimes continue and in the years to come, their leaders will have to be tried for war crimes.

The next focus was the EU elections of 2009 and the major leaders Joseph Daul, Martin Schultz and Graham Watson and their parties dominated most of the 736 seats in the EU Parliament. Despite the magnitude of the elections it remained a comparatively low key affair with poor turnout of voters. However what really caught the fancy of the media was the election of the European Council President and Foreign Minister. Belgian prime minister, Herman Van Rompuy, and Cathy Ashton from Britain, took the high seats as Gordon Brown stopped backing Tony Blair in a last minute speculation fearing very little support for Blair. It seems Tony Blair was too heavyweight for Sarkozy and other EU leaders and they did not want strong British control over EU. The EU role would have brought Blair back to prominence no doubt but may have been harmful for UK-EU relations in the long run. However elections of two nonentities as the media have portrayed has not been without its controversies and many continue to wonder what the newly elected President and foreign Minister would be able to do for the EU.

This EU election news in early June was quickly dwarfed with news of Michael Jackson’s death by end June that took the media world by storm and the controversies surrounding Jackson from his ghostly appearances even after his death to why and whether he was killed with an overdose of Propofol continue to keep his fans intrigued. I can’t deny my own fascination with Michael Jackson’s talents when I was a teenager and he had a whole generation aping him and actually created the entire music video industry as well as dance trends, music trends and dressing style. Michael Jackson was unique, his talents were unique, his personality was unique and it was a loss to not just the entertainment industry but to all. More than a loss of a man of 50, controversies on why he died when apparently he was fit may be still a hot issue now in the entertainment industry and the trial of his personal physician for any overdose of drugs may reveal more about his death in the years to come.

Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize has been one of the most controversial Nobel Peace Prizes of our times and the world’s media and even some of Obama’s supporters took no time to ask –Huh, what did he do to deserve it?’ Obama himself was no less surprised that instead of the hundreds who have worked quietly towards Peace for years, he got the Prize for promises and expectations. The Nobel Committee went to clarify ‘why’ they chose Obama as the Prize winner and then Obama had to justify why he actually accepted the Prize when many expected him to decline it. There are still too many people who continue to question why Obama got the Nobel Peace Prize and whether the Nobel Committee has lost some of its credibility by giving away too prestigious a Prize too soon.

Sarah Palin also unfortunately released a book in 2009. Going Rogue has been as good a draw as Barack Obama’s Audacity of Hope. In fact the only difference is that Sarah Palin’s book was written by someone else and Obama wrote his own book. Yet, Palin received reviews far and wide for a book she must have compiled with the help of newspaper clippings and other people’s notes and blogs. These must have been mixed and matched by her ghostwriter to create Going Rogue, a bestseller, ‘written’ by Sarah Palin. Talk about the empty culture we continue to live in where ghostwritten books by celebrities sell better than real content.

The Tiger Woods scandal of his 14 mistresses sent the media in another kind of frenzy and when one mistress can shake the world, Tiger gave 14 to the world and it was a case of ‘too much to handle’. As the media waited with bated breath for one new mistress every day, Tiger was found getting poorer with his sponsors pulling the rug from under his feet and he lost his millions becoming a cheating foolish villain from a revered sports superstar in a span of two weeks. What Tiger needs to do now is run and hide in the woods for a year or two and get the creases of his personality sorted out so that he get back to Golf and possibly write a book on why he did what he did.

Then came Obama’s war speech that was shredded and analyzed like no Nobel speech has ever been. Simply because it was a very good speech and encompassed an entire range of issues and ideas, from Afghanistan to terrorism, from religion to globalization, from Gandhi to Geneva Conventions. Obama’s Nobel speech was more about war than about Peace yet it was a justification for what he is already doing such as sending more troops to Afghanistan. Was Obama right in justifying his agenda for ‘just’ war? He couldn’t be blamed as he as president inherited wars and there was no escape. There was also no escape of the fact that Obama has to for a while follow on the footsteps of Bush before bringing any drastic change. The Nobel war speech may have been controversial but it firmly highlighted that Obama was taking a slow and gradual approach to change.

The UN climate change summit in Copenhagen has been quite a failure. Ok so what did people expect? People will disagree but such summits are never meant to be successful. It may not be completely possible to reverse climate change no matter what agenda we come up with. Climate change has always been a reality and is a by product of civilization and a natural course that the earth has been taking and there is no way we can use our limited resources to change a specific direction in earth’s geography. Maybe we can reduce carbon dioxide emissions but there will be other factors that would still add up to global warming, it is finally inevitable. I would suggest pepping up space travel and exploration of outer space so that humans can explore alternative living spaces other than the earth so that even if there is a global catastrophe a few hundred years later, our next generations will have other planets to emigrate to. Space research has to be improved and these may define the trends of the coming decades.

There were other issues of the health care bill and a global recession making way for a stronger global economy. The next decade could be about an increased interest in space research and possibly finding alternative lands where humans can settle, about finding other lives and other worlds. This will also be a decade of redefining political relationships such as the emerging equations between US-and China and India the growing Asian powers. This will also be a decade of greater European integration and a stronger Euro. Here’s hoping terrorism will be near dead within the next decade and Osama Bin Laden will also be discovered dead although it is unlikely that he is still alive and hiding. The next decade should also be about change and democracy and the labour of the relentless activists of democracy would want to see fruition with Aung San Suu Kyi coming to power in Burma with the help of US and UN. A stronger moral society and greater emphasis on a healthy family life, increased cosmopolitanism and the need to give away wealth for an equal society (following the lessons of recession) would be the trends of the next years. We are moving towards a global good and global hope of poverty eradication and individual power. It’s more and more about respecting individual ideas rather than following hierarchy. With increased social networking in the last decade the world is also more of a global family with little difference between rich and poor, high and low. A homogenous world community is now closer than ever and possibly what we need now is momentum to keep strengthening the vision of one common global fraternity.

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Emanuel Paparella2010-01-02 16:59:05
The above is a thorough, well written, insightful overview of the year 2009, Ms. Roy. I particularly liked your description of our rogue celebrities and non-descript politicians (hard to tell the difference nowadays), and of our chosen heroes with feet of clay. I suppose every society deserves the heroes it chooses for itself. Indeed, what Machiavelli called “virtù” has precious little to do with the Aristotelian classical virtue, but alas we don’t seem to be able to tell the difference any longer; things may have to get a lot worse in the global village of the next decade before they get any better. Eventually the gods and the poetical return however, if the philosopher of history Vico has it on target that is! There are omens that such a return is already happening and the conspiracy of hope is on the march even if the Machiavellian cynics among us, proud of their mindless activism, vilify as it as a crusade of sort. Eventually such a conspiracy will clash with the prevailing cynicism and nihilism. It is the eternal archetypal struggle of hope against despair, of good against evil, of freedom against determinism. Latch your seat belts for the journey ahead is bound to be a turbulent one, for we live in interesting times.

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