[Dehai-WN] Guardian.co.uk: Odd as it may seem, 2011 is proving to be a year of rebirth

[Dehai-WN] Guardian.co.uk: Odd as it may seem, 2011 is proving to be a year of rebirth

From: Berhane Habtemariam <Berhane.Habtemariam_at_gmx.de_at_dehai.org>
Date: Sun, 20 Nov 2011 01:11:46 +0100

Odd as it may seem, 2011 is proving to be a year of rebirth

Something deep and impressive is going on in the new generation who have an
innate sense of justice and fairness

* Henry Porter <http://www.guardian.co.uk/profile/henryporter>
* The Observer <http://observer.guardian.co.uk> , Sunday 20 November

When New York's mayor, Michael Bloomberg, sent stormtrooper cops - equipped
with batons, pepper spray and ear-splitting pain compliance devices - to
sweep the
ction-live> Occupy protesters from Wall Street, he was attacked by the
American TV commentator Keith Olbermann as "a smaller, more embarrassing
version of the tinpot tyrants who have fallen around the globe this year".

That will have pricked Bloomberg's technocratic vanity, yet there he is,
three months away from his 70th birthday and worth approximately $19.5bn,
ordering his police chief, Ray Kelly, who has already hit 70 but is still,
incidentally, a familiar figure on the Manhattan party circuit, to unleash a
shocking level of force against young people who were simply agitating for a
better economic system, more equity and transparency.

It is not a good look in a country where, as Joseph Stiglitz revealed in
Vanity Fair, 1% of the population now takes nearly 25% of the nation's
income. Justly or not, Bloomberg will be lumped with that international
class of rich, often kleptomaniac, elderly men who have been brought down or
who are looking shaky as demands for reform circle the world in what I
believe to be a surge of optimism and, crucially, reason.

The Age of Downfalls, inaugurated when the 74-year-old President Ben Ali of
Tunisia flew into exile and a coma, has claimed a surprising number of his
generation. And it's not just the toppling of tyrants such as Ben Ali, the
83-year-old former President Mubarak of Egypt, or the 69-year-old Muammar
Gaddafi, but also the demise of such men as Silvio Berlusconi (75), the
former head of the IMF Dominique Strauss Khan (62) and the variety of
threats faced by many Middle Eastern leaders, Rupert Murdoch (80) and the
president of Fifa, Sepp Blatter (75).

Obviously, the same forces are not responsible for each man's troubles, but
a year ago each of them seemed bombproof. We had no inkling that the world
was about to be remade in such astonishingly short order; that history would
decide, for whatever reason, that these men have had their time and the
pathetic fiction of the dictator's hair dye would no longer work. If
neutrinos can travel the length of Italy faster than the speed of light,
calling into question our most fundamental assumptions about the universe,
just about anything can happen.

One of the important traits of the Age of Downfalls is the exposure of myths
and lies, a characteristic established in its initial months last winter by
Wikileaks, which told us how things really were - that Saudi Arabia urged
the US to bomb Iran; that the CIA tried to collect the UN general
secretary's DNA; that China ordered the hacking of Google; that Ben Ali's
family were looting Tunisia.

Much more has followed - a proper understanding of Greece's fraudulent
application to join the euro; the revelations about oil companies owned by
s-lobbying> Koch brothers paying for inaccurate and misleading information
on climate change; the relentless uncovering of News International's
evasions about hacking and police corruption; the protests when China
started burying the wreckage of a train crash; and the exposure of the
hopeful falsehood of the euro project, which suggests countries with widely
varying economic performance and different cultures can unite in a single

Whether through the market or the media, the internet or the instincts of
the masses, truth has become the revolutionary weapon in the Age of
Downfalls. That is surely a cause for optimism.

Indeed, the reason for hope is reason itself. Across the world, millions
have demonstrated for fairness and enlightenment values. The chants of young
people that echoed through the cities of Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen,
Dubai, Syria, Greece, Spain, Italy, Israel, Chile, America and Britain are
very similar - they are about freedom, self-determination, fairness,
justice, access to education and jobs, as well as the corruption,
mismanagement and greed of their elders.

In Burma, demand for reforms have led to
feed=true> Aung San Suu Kyi's announcement that she will stand in the next
election. Even in Pakistan, a country generally regarded as beyond repair,
Imran Khan's recent rally in Lahore struck the familiar notes of the Arab
Spring. According to Tariq Ali in the London Review of Books, Khan's limited
programme to end corruption, institute a strict tax regime, restore public
services and terminate the servile relationship with the US was cheered as
loudly by "young women in jeans and T-shirts. as those in hijabs". It is now
possible to believe that Khan and Suu Kyi may both end up bringing a very
different eye to the government of their peoples.

Reason has not won the battle against mythomaniac religions and greedy
interests, particularly with the right of American politics, which embraces
both these menaces as an article of national pride. Yet something deep and
impressive is going on in the new generation, who have come of age. it
seems. with an almost innate understanding of justice and fairness, and are
- significantly - managing their religious convictions in the context of
wanting improved societies.

Barely a week has gone by this year when I have not thrilled at the turn of
events and pinched myself at some new surprise. A small example is the
latest crime survey for the US, released by the FBI in the summer. Murder,
rape, robbery and other serious crimes have fallen to a 48-year low. The
murder rate has halved and robberies are down 10%, following an 8% fall in
2009. Canada shows the same fall (without locking up the vast numbers the US
has) and England and Wales recorded an overall drop of 4%, with violence
causing injury and firearms offences both down by 9%. We are perhaps better
than we know, or at least better than governments give us credit for.

The key question seems to be this: will all the hopes of the year evaporate
as we revert to type? Are we basically limited by human nature? Recent Swiss
research published by the New Scientist suggests that each of us is
programmed to behave like Ben Ali or Putin, or the corporate monsters,
Berlusconi and Murdoch. If a person is given power over people and has more
to gain from underhand dealings, abuse almost always follows. Yet research
shows that a very few individuals will defy the pattern and set an example
and that culture and institutions restrict corruption and the abuse of

That is the vital point: millions are calling not just for fairness and
justice, but a reform of the institutions that will guard against the crimes
and corruption of the few against the many. This is an amazingly important
step for humanity and it is one of the reasons that despite the sense of
impending crisis, I take heart from the Age of Downfalls.


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Received on Sat Nov 19 2011 - 19:12:10 EST
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