BY TARA MCEVOYOld news- ShironekoEuro- Flickr
If 2011 was the year of protest, 2012 has been the year to let the dust settle. This time last year, revolution was sweeping the world – an international youth spurred into action.
The Financial Times’ Gideon Rachman wondered if 2011 would rank alongside 1968 and 1989 as a year of global revolt; newspapers, websites and magazines from Pakistan to Portugal hailed the protesters that were spearheading the fight back – whether that fight was against the ‘1%’, corrupt regimes or dodgy politicians.
Yet what has been the legacy of this year of turmoil and tumult? A year on, the sweeping social changes that defined those twelve months of our recent history seem little more than a distant memory.
The worst recession in generations continues to deepen in Ireland, Greece, Spain. On the streets of these and countless other countries the world over, the overworked and underpaid, the unemployed and the evicted continue to take to the streets, bolstered by the pressing weight of injustice.
The Arab nations continue their long journey towards democracy, with last year’s spring having seen tyrannical dictatorships overthrown and millions of citizens inspired to r
eclaim power of their own political systems.
Last October, the Occupy movement’s first tents were being erected and would come to be symbolic of Western disillusionment. Yet even this campaign – seemingly pregnant with potential, has faded into the mists of obscurity. Al Gore characterised Occupy Wall Street as ‘The primal scream of American democracy’, to Noam Chomsky it represented, ‘The first major public response to thirty years of class war’. When I met the leader of the occupy Belfast camp in January, he was steadfast in the belief that the movement was this generation’s equivalent to the civil rights movement of the sixties.
Echoing this, Egyptian politician Amr Moussa spoke to TIME Magazine of the ‘new spirit’ which abounded in 2011. ‘The grassroots’, he argued, were ‘revolting’ with ‘young people on Wall Street and young people in Europe’ desperate to have their voices heard. And playing a crucial role in this new struggle towards an open dialogue were the social networks – forums to rapidly assemble support, organise and campaign, discuss and debate. Yet are these same networks responsible for a waning attention span, as people become desensitised to the news reports of world affairs which sit alongside friends’ statuses and viral videos?
News by its very nature is a fast moving thing, yet in this brave new digital world – where news is rapidly diffused, quickly considered and then dismissed – do we risk diminishing some of the most pressing social matters of our generation to the status of sound bites?