The year we changed our minds

2011-12-23 13:03

A decade from now, these are the five international events of 2011 the world will remember.

The people’s revolution
This year people realised their ability to affect their own future, said Khadija Patel, blogger and journalist at The Daily Maverick.

From the Arab Spring to the Occupy Wall Street movement, from the UK riots to the death of Andries Tatane at the hands of police in Ficksburg in the Free State, “we witnessed the resurgence of people power”.

Patel said: “The Egypt uprising not only showed how a dictatorship can be overthrown, but from where it all started in Tunisia and continued to Libya, people across the world feel more emboldened to go out and affect the status quo.

“Governments realised they’d better be in touch with their people otherwise they would not survive.” (See Page 12)

A Greek tragedy
The eurozone economic crisis will shape the European economies in the next decade, said senior economist at Nedbank Nicky Weimar.

“The ramifications can already be seen in terms of political and social changes with protests in many countries. The test is, will these economies face up to the challenge? Will they act in a more cooperative manner and move closer together?”

Whether the European Union will survive will not only depend on how governments deal with political issues, but also with the social challenges from ordinary Europeans who will look at what is happening to their finances, she said.

The great techie
No single person has had such a profound effect on technology or how we consume media as Steve Jobs – Apple’s charismatic pioneer of the personal computer.

His death in October was arguably the tech story of the year, given his enormous effect on consumer electronics in a career that began in the early days of personal computing in the 1970s said Toby Shapshak, editor of Stuff magazine.

Jobs’ story has become the blueprint for many tech start-ups: from his parents’ garage to the most valuable company in the world.

“It overtook ExxonMobil’s market valuation just before he resigned as chief executive in August – a sign of the power of the new economy (digital) over the old (oil),” said Shapshak.

He revolutionised six industries: personal computers (Macs), digital music (iPod and iTunes), animation movies (Pixar), mobiles (iPhone), tablets (iPad) and created the apps economy.

Weathering the storm
Extreme weather events became the “new normal” in 2011.

“We saw severe flooding in many parts of the world, reminding us of how vulnerable we are,” said science writer Leonie Joubert.

“While you cannot necessarily say any of those events were the result of climate change, they do indicate the trends we will see in future.”

In January many provinces in South Africa were declared disaster areas due to excessive rain and flooding.

Joubert said while this is likely to be linked to the natural La Niña weather phenomenon, we know that by adding more energy to the climatic system, “we are amping up those kinds of natural cycles, meaning the associated weather extremes will happen more often and with greater intensity”.

The madness of Murdoch
Too much power in the hands of one media mogul has disastrous consequences.

The UK hacking scandal by newspapers belonging to News Corporation tycoon Rupert Murdoch has cast a shadow over journalism’s integrity which will take years to shed.

Wits journalism professor Anton Harber said no one would ever look upon media empires such as Murdoch’s in the same way again.

“Governments around the world will take a fresh view of media groups and at (the consequences of) that kind of power developing in one man’s hands.”

He said Murdoch’s fall showed a fundamental change in attitude towards media power. “I think the unrestrained entertainment model of media has reached its limits. People are beginning to rediscover the importance of serious news media.”


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