2011: THE YEAR IN REVIEW (The Social Scientist and Definitely Filipino Year-End Special)

2011 has indeed captured the world’s attention with its shocking, gruesome, and sometimes heart-warming, news headlines. This year, we were at awe with the catastrophes which struck various parts of the world, wondered at the amazing show of People Power in the Arab World and other countries, and dazed by the death of some of the most prominent personalities in world, both sinister and iconic. We also worried at the continuing crisis gripping the world’s economy and had our share of smiles and joyful laughter at the most sensational wedding of the century. Here are my TOP 10 NEWS STORIES OF 2011.

10. Norway Massacre and Bombing

Photo credit: http://www.abc.net.au

This massacre and bombing which killed 69 people shocked this quiet and peaceful nation and the world. Perpetrated by a 32-year old, right-wing Christian extremist Anders Breivik, the massacre and bombing exposed the religious intolerance some groups in Europe harbour against non-Christians and their supporters. It proved that Muslims are not the only one capable of terrorism.

9. Death of Kim Jong-il

With just about every dictator falling from power or dying this year, North Korean leader Kim Jong-il won’t be left behind. Before the year closed, he met his Creator after suffering a heart attack while on routine visit to the countryside. His death triggered alarms throughout the Korean Peninsula for fears of a looming power vacuum after the perceived lack of readiness of his heir-apparent Kim Jong-un. His wake and funeral gave the world a glimpse of what it was like inside the secretive state which has isolated itself since the 50s. Despite the lavish lifestyle he lived, while remaining blind to the plight of his hunger-stricken and rights-deprived people, his funeral was attended by throngs of North Koreans, many of whom were forced to cry out of fear from the regime.

8. Death of Steve Jobs

While dictators fell one by one, the world also lost a genius this year. Apple co-founder and CEO Steve Jobs finally succumbed to his long and painful fight against pancreatic cancer. This renaissance man of the computer industry introduced us to many of the indispensible and life-changing gadgets we now use from the Macintosh computer, the iPod, the iPhone, up to the iPad. Not only did he make a gadget that is sleek, good-looking and profitable, he made sure that his consumers get the most out of his products. And thus, the world loved him for all the endeavours he’s done to change the way gadgets and humans interact.

7. Death of Muammar Gaddafi

Photo credit: http://resources3.news.com.au

Justice has been served in Libya with the death of long-time dictator Muammar Gaddafi – in a chilling and gut-wrenching way. The Libyan people, whose rights he has deprived and maligned for over 40 years, have liberated themselves from his clutches and surrounded him on all sides with international help. It was poetic justice when they found him begging for his life in a sewer in his hometown of Sirte, as the rebels shot him and displayed his body to the crowd, all while videotaping the incident. The world was witness to his horrifying end via YouTube and sent a chilling message to all other dictators in the Arab World.

6. The Royal Wedding

Photo credit: http://i.dailymail.co.uk

Amidst the violence and bloodshed brought about by the Arab Spring, we were greeted with lovely news of Prince William’s marriage to commoner Kate Middleton. The British heir to the throne married his long-time beau at Westminster Abbey in London and was witnessed by 162 million people around the world via television broadcast and the Internet. The world blushed at the sight of the Royal Couple as they kissed twice for the public at Buckingham Palace. After the tragic end to the marriage of Prince Charles and Princess Diana in 1997, the world had a new romance to look forward to.

5. Wild Weather Disasters

The irreversible effect of global climate change has created a series of destructive weather events in different parts of the globe since the start of the year. The United States braced for a series of tornados which hit Joplin, Missouri. Southeast Asia was hit by consecutive typhoons leaving large areas of the Philippines, Vietnam and Thailand flooded. The Horn of Africa was devastated by its worst drought in decades causing a huge humanitarian crisis amid the threat of Islamic extremism in the region. And before the year ended, the Philippines was hit once more by tragedy, after a relatively weak tropical storm continuously poured torrential rains on Northern Mindanao, inundating the cities of Cagayan De Oro and Iligan, resulting in the loss of almost 2,000 lives.

4. The Death of Osama bin Laden

Photo credit: abcnews.com

Our atmosphere of merriment brought about by the Royal Wedding was quickly quenched by news of the death of America’s most wanted man: Osama bin Laden. The Al Qaeda leader and mastermind of the September 11, 2001 Attacks in New York and Washington DC, was killed by US Special Forces in his secret lair in Abbottabad, Pakistan on May 1. His death came as a surprise as there were no indications that bin Laden was hiding in plain sight in one of Pakistan’s most affluent communities. Doubts were cast on the authenticity of the report which was broadcasted to the world by President Barack Obama. In the end, video and photographs of the raid were shown to key people in American government which led to a confirmation of his death. His body was laid to rest according to Muslim rites in an undisclosed location in the Arabian Sea.

3. Global Economic Crisis

Photo credit: usatoday.net

2011 saw the continuation and worsening of an economic crisis which started in the United States around 2007 or 2008 by the bursting of the US housing bubble and the decline of US and European banks and other financial institutions. This year, the economic crisis worsened unemployment in America and brought Greece, Portugal and Ireland into a recession which needed a difficult intervention from other European Union nations. The recession in Europe threatened the demise of the euro and of the Union itself but was saved temporarily by diplomacy among member countries. In 2012, the crisis will still continue and who knows what problems it will unfold for the world.

2. The Arab Spring Revolutions

Photo credit: http://www.articlesweb.org

The end of 2010 saw the beginning of an awakening of Arab societies in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Bahrain and other Arab nations in North Africa and West Asia. It began in Tunisia when a fruit vendor, discontented by the lack of job opportunities in his countries set himself on fire. His sacrifice turned into a national cry for justice and reform which spread to other neighbouring countries with the help of social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and blogging. A new breed of young, educated Arabs led the battle cry which resulted in the toppling of respective dictatorial regimes in Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen. In Libya, the revolution turned into an all-out civil war which involved Western forces who supported the rebels; while in Yemen, the revolution resulted in a power transfer deal between President Ali Abdullah Saleh and the Gulf Cooperation Council. In Syria, the despotic President Bashar Al-Assad continues to resist opposition to his rule by using violence against protesters. The revolution there still continues to unfold.

1. The Japan Earthquake, Tsunami and Nuclear Disaster

On March 11, 2011, in the midst of our cacophony over the revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt and Syria, the eastern seaboard of Japan was struck by the most powerful earthquake it felt in recent years. The 9.0 magnitude earthquake destroyed buildings in the Tohoku region and created a huge tsunami which devastated various cities along its coastline. The world was awed, and at the same time, gripped with fear, as the tsunami’s onslaught on Japanese cities was broadcasted live in television. The tsunami created panic in other countries as it spread to the Pacific Rim (but left only little damage). Our fears were taken to the highest levels once news of the crippling and eventual meltdown of the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant came. For the second time, the world was made aware of the chilling and deadly effects of nuclear radiation. This nuclear crisis left Fukushima and its surrounding region permanently contaminated and forced the evacuation of thousands. But in the midst of the disaster, the world also witnessed the resilience, calm and cooperation of the Japanese people. Slowly, we saw how they came to terms with what happened to them, stood up and rose up from the ashes of this tragedy.

How you dear DF readers? Which news event gripped your consciousness this past year? Share your own sensational news event of 2011 by commenting on this article, and I will select some of the best responses for posting in The Social Scientist. Deadline of submission is January 6, 2012.

With all that happened during 2011, we are left with a great deal of anxiety and anticipation for things to come in the New Year. There are those who believe that 2012 will usher in a new era of cataclysmic disasters and crisis that will lead to ultimate end of the world. There are those who dismiss such claims and continue to have hope on the human spirit to solve and weather these catastrophes. Whatever may happen in 2012, whether human society will come to an end or continue to prevail, may the spirit which enabled us to endure our wonderful and sometimes weary existence remain with us always.


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  1. this is me commenting as the article suggested.

    i would say that the one that got me the most is the tsunami incident since i was personally attached to it. i am one of the US sailors who were sending relief from the USS ronald reagan aircraft carrier. we endured being exposed under the nuclear radiation, and extreme freezing conditions so we can continue sending support. we also have to endure being treated as though i have an incurable disease and being in complete isolation from the rest so that we do not spread the radiation to others. we also have seen floating houses, boats, cars, furnitures, etc. floating in the waters and it was such a horrible sight to see. i have to say that was the pinnacle of my worst-day-evers. i could not even imagine what the residents of Japan would have been feeling at that moment. thanks to this incident, i am now more concious of how scary nuclear wars could be.

  2. This video captured my heart. I know he might be the MT “Most Tyrant” that’s why he was called “King of Kings”. I am a history lover. I’m sure there’s a reason behind his being a tyrant that we can’t judge, for it all goes down himself alone. We don’t know his childhood history, his life, his ‘nothing compares’ experiences, his way of thinking that led to his strong character. It just shook my heart that in every evil detail there’s still goodness in a single period that up to his last breath he was saying ” Don’t kill me, my sons..”

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