2012 IN RETROSPECTIVE: THE END THAT WAS NOT AND THE FUTURE THAT IS TO BE.
Well folks, the dreaded December 21, 2012 Mayan Apocalyptic bugaboo has come and gone. Here in Québec City, in Canada, it took the form of a fairly healthy first-of-the season winter blizzard with 80-90 km/hr winds. Not quite as apocalyptic as we were expecting, but nevertheless enough to snarl traffic and cause some local power outages across the region. We’ll have to wait another day for the coming of the Kingdom. Who would’ve thought…?
In any case, all of this makes me pause and reflect on the year that was and the year to come. How did 2012 stack up against previous ones all around? Well, we had another mass shooting by some solitary man in the USA, armed to the teeth, as per the usual scenario, and turning the gun upon himself after first wreaking havoc, this time in an elementary school in Newtown Connecticut, killing 20 children and 6 adults.
We had scandals here at home concerning revelations of political corruption in the construction industry, bribes, kickbacks, brown envelopes, Mayors resigning left, right and center, commissions of inquiry with star witnesses spilling their guts about how they participated in all of it, seeming to get a sense of catharsis and expunging of guilty consciences in the process of doing so.
We had student protests here at home in the province of Québec also, all with a thinly-veiled secessionist agenda of overturning a nearly decade-long reign of Liberal Party incumbency and corruption. They were ostensibly protesting against tuition fee hikes, the first in several decades, in the Canadian province with the lowest tuition, leading nevertheless to one of the lowest levels of post-secondary graduation in the country, but the protests quickly took on a so-called ‘grass-roots’ civil society (read ‘well-organized leftist agitation’) flavour, leading to all manner of omnibus-types of street protests as soon as the weather turned nice.
The students were quickly joined by every stripe of left-wing ‘Occupy Wall Street, anti-everything’-type of dilettante flakes who took the opportunity of demonstrating against what they perceived as the entrenched evils of Québec and Canadian society, but quickly disappearing into the woodwork upon the exhortations of the Chambers of Commerce of Montréal and Québec city, who didn’t want nasty street protests damaging their short, yet lucrative festival and tourist season, when most hotels, restaurants and downtown merchants make their money for the year. Capitalist society and the political system which supports it is evil and corrupt, but hey, can you just stop banging on your pots and pans and disturbing us so that we can work long enough to make some of that filthy lucre you all despise so much? This is Canada after all; we’re a very polite and civilized bunch of quasi-malcontents.
However, they did succeed in mobilizing the youth vote in the September 2012 provincial election, helping to push out the sitting Liberals, and ushering in a minority secessionist PQ government, thanks in large part to a large chunk of the population (27%) who voted for a new third party, the CAQ (Coalition Avenir Québec), an eclectic coalition of pro-business secessionists, soft-nationalists, and disaffected Liberals, all with a fairly strong pro-business economically-oriented form of right-wing nationalism.
The Americans also voted for a second term of Democratic rule, Big Bird survived a potentially life-threatening Romney-induced assassination attempt, the Canadian government passed an omnibus budget bill which nobody still yet knows exactly what’s in it, save for the fact that everybody who’s ever had some sort of entitlement seems to be up in arms that they’re going to lose some or all of it because of it, including seniors, aboriginals, women, the artistic community, the civil service, you name it. But we’re buying tens of billions of dollars of new fighter jets, so at least somebody’s happy.
On another front, the Middle East and Central Asia are still up in flames, which brings me to a point I’ve been mulling over in my head for some time: Are we asking the Arab-Muslim world, and the rest of the world for that matter, to grow up too fast? We in the west settled our scores for the most part, with the notable exception of the Balkan wars in the 1990s, over a period of several thousands of years of ethnic, racial, religious and socio-economically-driven blood-letting, including two very orgiastically self-indulgent bouts of violence in the 20th century alone, at a cost of roughly 60 million lives.
All of this occurred, for the most part without the glare of 24hr/day, 7 days/week, 365 days/year instantaneous news media and sundry social media mavens all twittering and posting stuff on their timeline in real time as events unfolded. We were allowed to become who we are today without an external human agency breathing down our necks and not only commenting on every thing we did, but also preaching to us from the gallery and going so far as to intervene in our affairs when they thought we were doing something ‘wrong’ or ‘bad’, or at least something that would upset that external agency’s guaranteed supply of animal, vegetable and mineral resources so that it could continue to live prosperously at our expense.
What we don’t seem to realize is that our process of evolution, which culminated in the post-WWII peace and prosperity and stable secular liberal-democratic constitutional forms of governance which we all have come to take for granted, is what precisely led to the creation of the very media-crazy and instantaneous information society that we live in today. Previous to WWII, we lived in a world of mostly electro-mechanical media, especially the print media. There was radio, but it was not visual and often not live to be able to seize upon the sense of immediacy which ‘good visuals’ usually do.
The print media was also more cumbersome, and for the powers that be, more easy to control, since there was always a time-lapse between when and how information was gathered, synthesized by the reporter on paper, edited and possibly censored by the owners or the government, then sent to the presses for publication. With the advent of live TV in the post war era, then the internet, everybody has become an insta-journalist and witness as well as shaper of world events, bringing up-to-the second reporting and coverage of events as they unfold, often without the benefit of context, insight, perspective, or historical and cultural relevance to the potential audience who will eventually be watching it.
We have to let the emerging world emerge on their own terms, especially the Arab-Muslim world. We have to let them go through the same process of interaction between traditional religious and faith-based, royalist society, and progressive, secular-humanist, and republican society that we did throughout the past and let the chips fall where they will. Except that there is a lot of wealth in those countries that we want not only for our needs, but which they want to develop for their own as well. Which begs the question: Is not this very issue of interaction between these two world views mentioned above not already occurring within the context of the west’s attempts at developing the wealth of the Middle East and Central Asia and the rest of this world?
It is precisely due to the competition and conflicts over the control over the world’s markets for animal, vegetable and mineral resources, which are all ultimately necessary for the peaceful development of life here on this planet, which are the source of most of the world’s conflicts over the opposing views of secular-humanistic progressivism, democracy, republicanism and the forces of traditionalism, faith, religion, God, and monarchy.
As U2 said, ‘so they say, this is the golden age, and gold is the reason for the wars we wage’. As I’ve argued elsewhere on these pages, I’ve always felt that the weight of history has borne out this statement, that control over markets is the ultimate determinant of civilization. And this is why the Arab-Muslim world and the rest of the world so much want yet at the same time dreads western ways. Because they want the freedom that comes along with democracy. They want the peace that comes with democracy. They want the choice and prosperity that comes along with democracy.
But they don’t necessarily want internet porn, or Paris Hilton, or the Post-Modern decay, fragmentation and unravelling of the social fabric which has come with the rise of women’s liberation, homosexual rights, the de-sanctification of marriage and the nuclear family, the decline of patriarchy, hierarchy and Christianity, or conventional religions in general. They have every reason to be afraid, because they are being asked and often forced at gunpoint to make many giant leaps forward, straight out of an often traditional tribal society, into a Post-Modern, urban, Post-Industrial, highly fragmented and individualistic media-centred civilization.
But change they must. We must help the rest of the world adapt to the changing world and help ease them as slowly and as painlessly into the 21st century, despite them having often not even having experienced the 20th or even the 19th. 2012 may not have ultimately been the year of the Mayan Apocalypse, but it certainly has been a year to remember for its world-changing events.
Maybe the Mayans were right. Maybe one world has ended and another is just emerging. Maybe next year will be ‘lucky 13’. Hang onto your hats folks, the NRA wants armed guards in every school in the USA. Hmmm…Maybe Armageddon isn’t that far off after all!!!