Chrystia Freeland sums up 2011 perfectly in characterizing it as a year in which the “elites” were taken by surprise. For a long time, the comfort of the status quo allowed them to go about their dictatoring and monopolizing without fear of the people underneath them, who were suffering more with every passing year.
But a funny thing happened in 2011: the people decided they weren’t all that comfortable with their necks beneath a boot. Especially as social media allowed for mass communication and a sharing of the basic truth that the Emperors weren’t wearing any clothes at all.
By sharing intelligence and feelings and experiences, the people were able to get mad enough to mobilize. The realization that the status quo was a) a crock of shit and b) not necessarily a mandatory, permanent fact was both thrilling to protestors and a ghastly comeuppance to those who thought they had us all fooled, from Wall Street to Cairo.
Check out Freeland’s piece (Reuters via the New York Times):
NEW YORK — 2011 was a good year for protest and a bad year for government. 2012 will be a good year for both if our political leaders can figure out the connection.
Across the globe, this was a year when people took to the streets, often overthrowing their leaders in the process. That was true in the Arab world, in Russia, in India, in Western Europe, in the United States and even in China.
And everywhere, this year of mass defiance wrong-footed those who were supposed to be in the know. The experts had thought the Arabs were getting richer and were too scared of their autocrats, that the Russians were apathetic and quite liked their neo-czar, that the Indian middle class was politically disengaged, that West Europeans were too old for outrage, that Americans didn’t care about the class divide and that the Chinese comrades were too effective at suppressing dissent.
But everywhere, the conventional wisdom was turned upside down by people who turned out to be angrier than their elites had suspected, and better able to channel that dissatisfaction into mass protest and even revolution.