Ten Good Things About a (Not So) Bad Year
Medea Benjamin, CommonDreams
I had the privilege of starting out the year witnessing, firsthand, the unfolding of the Egyptian revolution in Tahrir Square. I saw people who had been muzzled their entire lives, especially women, suddenly discovering their collective voice. Singing, chanting, demanding, creating. And that became the hallmark of the entire year–people the world over becoming empowered and emboldened simply by watching each other. Courage, we learned in 2011, is contagious!
1. The Arab Spring protests were so astounding that even Time magazine recognized “The Protester” as Person of the Year
Sparked by Tunisian vendor Mohamed Bouazizi’sself-immolation to cry out against police corruption in December 2010, the protests swept across the Middle East and North Africa—including Egypt,Libya, Bahrain, Syria, Yemen, Algeria, Iraq, and Jordan. So far, uprisings have toppled Tunesian President Ben Ali, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, and Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi–with more shake-ups sure to come. And women have been on the front lines of these protests, highlighted recently by the incredibly brave, unprecedented demo of 10,000 Egyptian women protesting military abuse.
2. Wisconsin caught the Spring Fever, with Madison becoming home to some 100,000 protesters opposing Governor Walker’s threat to destroy collective bargaining and blame the state’s economic woes on public workers. …
3. On September 17 Occupy Wall Street was born in the heart of Manhattan’s Financial District. Protesters railed against the banksters and corporate thieves responsible for the economic collapse.
The movement against the greed of the richest 1% spread to over 1,400 cities in the United States and globally, with newly minted activists embracing–with gusto–people’s assemblies, consensus decision-making, the people’s mic, and upsparkles. Speaking in the name of the 99%, the occupiers changed the national debate from deficits to inequality and corporate abuse. Even after facing heightened police brutality, tent city evictions, and extreme winter weather, protesters are undeterred and continue to create bold actions–from port shut-downs to moving money out of big banks. As Occupy Wall Street said, “You can’t evict an idea whose time has come.” Stay tuned for lots more occupation news in 2012.
4. After 8 long years, U.S. troops were finally withdrawn from Iraq. …
5. The 2011 Nobel Peace Prize was presented to three terrific women: Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the president of Liberia; Leymah Gbowee, the Liberian peace activist; and Yemeni pro-democracy campaigner Tawakkol Karman.
6. The bloated Pentagon budget is no longer immune from budget cuts. The failure of the super-committee means the Pentagon budget could be cut by a total of $1 trillion over the next decade — which would amount to a 23 percent reduction in the defense budget. The hawks are trying to stop the cuts, but most people are more interested in rebuilding America than fattening the Pentagon. That’s why the U.S. Conference of Mayors, for the first time since the Vietnam war, passed a resolution calling for the end to the hostilities and instead investing at home to create jobs, rebuild infrastructure and develop sustainable energy. 2011 pried open the Pentagon’s lock box. Let’s make the cuts in 2012!
7. Elizabeth Warren is running for Senate and Rep. Barbara Lee continues to inspire. …
8. Burmese opposition leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi is running for Parliament!
9. Opposition to Keystone pipeline inspired thousands of new activists, together with a rockin’ coalition of environment groups across the U.S. and Canada.
They brought the issue of the climate-killing pipeline right to President Obama’s door, with over 1,200 arrested in front of the White House. The administration heard them and ordered a new review of the project, but the Republican global warming deniers are trying to force Obama’s hand. Whatever way this struggle ends, it has educated millions about the tar sands threat and trained a new generation of environmentalists in more effective, direct action tactics that will surely result in future “wins” for the planet.
10. Following the tragic meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan, the growing appetite for nuclear energy has been reversed.
(27 December 2011)
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