Perspectives: A Review of 2011
(Swans - December 19, 2011) Year-end reviews have been a feature of Swans from its very beginning in the mid 1990s. I have always felt that there was a moment in time when we should look at the events of the passing year. It was a lonely process in the early years -- I would just write about what I had in mind. And then we would move to the next year. Slowly, the feature became beefier. As more contributors joined the fray I started asking as a favor that they write about their own opinions in regard to the passing year. Now, every December, we publish the views and opinions of regular contributors. I never tell, ask, or suggest what they should write. "Just write what's on your mind regarding the year and that will be fine with me. Please do so as a favor to me and Swans and the readers." I ask no more and no less. After all, time may be timeless, but for death and taxes, as a luminary once said, yet the clock still keeps ticking imperviously. Providing thoughts -- thought-provoking thoughts, no less -- is an exercise of careful consideration.
This year, December 2011, brings a crop of pretty amazing views and opinions -- close to 20 of them, voices whose diversity makes it worth reading. Some focus on a single issue. For example, Jonah Raskin can be forgiven for looking at 2011 in terms of his retirement from his 30-year teaching position. Still, he provides a sense of academia and today's students' frame of mind. Aleksandar Jokic and Tiphaine Dickson chose to pinpoint the state of lawlessness in the U.S., not particularly a new phenomenon in 2011, but something of which one should be reminded time and again. Isidor Saslav, who has been battling a long illness, spent most the year behind his computer screen -- when he was not hospitalized -- and has seen the power of the Internet to engage activists, and he has a couple of books to recommend. Guido Monte and his wonderful students concentrate on a topic that he has broached time and again, the tragedy of migrants lost at sea. The collage by Pippo Zimmardi will blow your mind, if not your emotions. You won't be surprised that Kazue Daikoku writes about the aftermath of the worst ecological disaster that befell Japan since World War II. Marie Rennard cannot be faulted to look at 2011 through French eyes. France is indeed in a bloody situation and Marie does not profess to be a politologue or an economist. She bears witness to the incurring mess in Sarkoland. Paul Buhle directs his attention to Wisconsin and the protests triggered by the very reactionary policies instigated by its governor, and he finds a way to inject optimism in the discourse.
Talking about optimism, Joel Hirschhorn provides a splendid lesson in hope that the Occupy movement will turn into a game-changing paradigm. While Michael Barker, using the billionaire Richard Branson as a case study, shows that 2011 was very much a year the elites consolidated their power, Michael DeLang, in very few, concise words, explains the conundrum we are facing: Can we reassess our values, now? Harvey Whitney writes about two topics that are dear to him: The state of American education and the limitation of technology -- topics that our policy-making ostriches keep buried in the sand.
Then it goes worldwide viral. Take a look at the kaleidoscope presented by Manuel García, the words that characterize 2011 as seen by Fabio De Propris, or the views from our African brother, Femi Akomolafe. And, maybe you'll want to take a detour and visit the thoughts of Raju Peddada, a man of Indian descent with wide views about the world, or the uncharacteristic words about the "Arab Spring" and more, from our very literate fellow, Peter Byrne. Then you can check Jan Baughman's thoughtful words and always-enlightening cartoon.
I'm sure I've left something or someone out. It's like, in a world that is losing its mind -- I am losing mine too -- these contributors are not.
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