Thursday, December 27, 2012


Civil wars, killing sprees, raging mobs, and a Korean invasion, topped with a scoop of freak weather events and soon enough we all believed the world would meet its end.

But it didn't; and here we are to relive the events that had captured our heart and mind this 2012. Shocking events, tear-jerking moments, and amazing scenes that almost passed as a good Roland Emmerich or Michael Bay film. I've laid out the carpet, prepped up the projector and screen, just bring the popcorn and join me as we look back at a dirty dozen of events that made up 2012.

12. Achievements in Space
A good end of the world film won’t be complete without astronauts and spaceships. But humankind’s space feats this year weren't suicide missions to deflect an asteroid or comet; these feats were a continuation of the Space Race which went on a long pause and then restarted. The United States was unseated as the leader of this race with its retirement of the Space Shuttle Program. It chose to focus instead in expanding its exploration of the Red Planet through its Curiosity rover mission which successfully touched down in Mars in August. However, the true trailblazer in space exploration this year is China, having successfully launched its Shenzhou 9 spacecraft in June for its first manned space docking mission which included its first woman in space. Another breakthrough in space exploration came from the private sector, with the first private space launch by SpaceX in October. With these new breakthroughs, humankind has breathed new life to the space race.

The proliferation of human conflict has always been an omen signifying the end of the world both in the Bible and other non-biblical sources. But since Neanderthal times, human conflict has been a daily occurrence that already lost its prophetic significance. Hence, this year marked a series of conflicts in the Middle East and East Asia brought about by the ripples of last year’s Arab Spring and China’s increasing military presence in the region.

11. Gaza under Siege
In March and November this year, Israel launched a series of attacks against Hamas-controlled Gaza. The attack, which was a targeted killing of suspected militants planning rocket attacks against Israel, created more harm to civilians and resulted in even more rocket attacks from Gaza. The thing with Israel is that it’s always been paranoid about its internal security that even the slightest hint of an attack from Gaza would prompt it to strike back (and always with a slightly greater force compared to the one exerted by its counterpart). On the other hand, the thing with Gaza is its myopic view that Israel is and will always be an enemy of Islam. It cannot move on from the hardships and struggles of the past, unlike its counterpart, the West Bank, which had successfully transitioned from a militant to a democratic government and received recognition (as the State of Palestine) from the UN General Assembly in November.

10. Rage over Anti-Islam Film
The Arab Spring spawned a new generation of young, idealistic, technologically-empowered Muslims ready to defend their faith to the death. Thus, when a group of twisted, spoiled Christians came out with a YouTube video mocking Islam and the prophet Muhammad, it was Arab Spring once more. But this time, the Islamic world came for blood resulting in attacks against various Western embassies and culminating in the much-hyped US Embassy Attacks in Benghazi, Libya throughout September this year.

9. China vs. Neighbors
With China’s increasing economic, political, and military might in East Asia, tensions between the Red Dragon and its neighbors also heightened. It began in April with an incursion by Chinese fishermen in Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal which resulted in a standoff between the Philippine Navy and Chinese Marine Surveillance ships. This was eventually followed by anti-China protests in the Philippines and Vietnam which the Chinese retaliated by conducting cyberattacks against Philippine government websites, resulting in a trade of cyberattacks. In July, China raised the status of all its territories in the South China Sea into a prefecture-level city called Sansha, angering Vietnam and the Philippines even more. In August, another front in the conflict was reopened when Chinese activists forced their way into Senkaku Islands, a territory claimed by China, Taiwan, and Japan. These events resulted in tensions between China and ASEAN member nations during the 21st ASEAN Summit in Cambodia in November.

8. Good and Bad Times for Democracy
2012 has been a great year for democracy beginning with the democratic transition in Myanmar following Aung San Suu Kyi’s release in 2010 and the first free elections held in over 20 years in April. Nations across the globe touted Myanmar’s democratic transition as a miracle and prompted an improvement of relations between the country and Western powers. Also in April, blind Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng escaped from house arrest in China and fled to the US Embassy in Beijing. Eventually, he was granted a visa to travel to the US to study and continue his campaign for a democratic transition in China. Nevertheless, there were setbacks to our democratic way of life as well, especially on the Internet. Efforts by the US government to pass the SOPA and PIPA bills in Congress resulted in widespread Internet and street protests in January. A similar law, the Anti-Cybercrime Law, was passed in the Philippine Congress and signed by President Benigno Aquino III in October, prompting similar protests and a series of cyberattacks on government websites.

7. Global Economic Recession
An end of the world scenario won’t be complete without an economic crash. In 2012, the world economy still hasn’t recuperated from the downturn it went through in 2011. The PIGS (Portugal, Italy, Greece, and Spain) all saw continuous street protests due to austerity measures adopted by their governments in order to pay sovereign debt as well as bailout measures to save big business.  In the United States, while strides were made to create more jobs and protect ordinary people from predatory market practices, many people were still out of jobs. US companies have begun to shift their operations back to the mainland to benefit their own people but threatening to put out of work millions of migrant workers in the US and outsourced workers in Asia. Meanwhile, China, one of the fastest growing economies in the past decade has shown signs of slowing its GDP for the first time, while countries like the Philippines and Indonesia have shown promising economic gains.

6. The London Olympics
We almost forgot that the world was about to end when London marveled us with an Olympic event like no other. From opening to closing, the 2012 London Olympics gave us a glimpse of British culture and history with its artsy, star-studded performances. We all got a new reason to smile at the camaraderie, teamwork, and athletic spirit shown by delegates from around the world, from Serena Williams in tennis to Usain Bolt in athletics. It was a festive, joyous sporting event to top off a series of milestones beginning with last year’s Royal Wedding and Queen Elizabeth II’s Jubilee this year.

5. US Shootings
But if there is a nation writhing in pain right now, it’s the United States of America. This nation is starting to feel the effects the Great Recession has had on its people. In just a year, 16 fatal shootings occurred in the US resulting in 88 people dead. Of these shootings, two of the most highly publicized occurred in Colorado and Connecticut. In July, deranged graduate student James Holmes (dressed in a Batman costume), opened fire at viewers inside a theater in Aurora, Colorado, where The Dark Knight Rises was being shown. On December 14, just a few days before Christmas, Adam Lanza, a 20-year old with a history of autism and personality disorder, killed his mother at their home and shot 26 students and teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. These shootings brought a nation to even more grief even as they’re still reeling from the effects of Hurricane Sandy and the Great Recession.

4. Wild, Wild Weather!
Killing sprees have been going on since the time of Cain and Abel so it’s less likely the world would end in such a way. But the likelihood of freak weather phenomena bringing an end to our species is something worth looking into. This year, various parts of the globe continued to experience its own piece of weird weather. In March up to August, North America suffered its worst drought in decades resulting in massive crop failures, wildfires, and heat strokes. In November, Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc in the East Coast destroying much of the states of New Jersey and New York and exposing modern New Yorkers to the horrors of flooding, blackouts, and mass evacuation for the first time. In the Philippines, history repeated itself with round-the-clock monsoon rains triggering metro-wide floods in August much like what happened in 2009 during Typhoon Ketsana (Ondoy). This December, supertyphoon Bopha (Pablo) caused devastation in the island of Mindanao, beating the destruction and loss of life caused by last year’s Typhoon Washi (Sendong).

3. Syrian Civil War
As the rest of the Arab Spring nations bask in their successful transition to their new governments, the success of the revolution has been very much delayed in Syria. Throughout the early to the middle part of 2012, it looked as if this conflict would turn out to be a war of attrition wherein both sides would each claim victory and without much shift in the territories they hold. However, as the West began to increase more pressure on President Bashar Al-Assad’s regime through neighbors Turkey and Jordan, and by providing some calculated support to the rebels, it looks like the tide is turning in favor of the revolution. Just this December, Russia has admitted that its ally might be on the losing end of the war. This conflict has gone on too long and the only peace the Syrian people can get right now is for the rebels to finally declare victory and start the long and arduous transition to democracy.

2. Gangnam Style
Who says the end of the world shouldn't have comic characters?

In 2012, we saw the rise of Korean pop singer Psy and his YouTube video “Gangnam Style”, the first ever YouTube video to reach a billion views. While we barely understand a word from his song, the catchy melody and dance steps has captivated viewers from around the world and created a fever both in an out of the World Wide Web. It is perhaps the climactic episode in this Korean Wave that has swept the world, giving us a bittersweet experience of Korean culture, history, and art. As we do the goofy, horse-riding step in this dance craze, we are given a temporary escape from all conflicts and problems we all faced this year. And it seemed as if maybe, just maybe, the world won’t come to an end.

1. Four More Years: The US Presidential Elections
The US Presidential Elections is the cherry to top this dozen of events that shook the world in 2012. After all, it was the most trending and most followed news event not just in the US but around the world. We followed the debates on TV, we tweeted and made status updates about our opinions and views about the candidates, and created memes about each contender before and after the vote. We all cringed in our seats when Clint Eastwood went talking to an empty chair. We braced ourselves as the votes came in one state at a time on November 6. We all went mushy during that historic moment when Barack hugged Michelle on national TV and thanked her for being with him throughout the campaign. It was the election that exposed the divisions in American society ever more so, but it was the victory that united it as well. We may never admit it, but as a de facto US state, we Filipinos have been moved by all of it even so.

A world without end: this is what we should realize after what had transpired throughout 2012. It just keeps going and going, fueled by the perpetual force of change. As long as we keep on believing that our world has no end, humankind will never have a shortage of metaphors to live by each day. No matter what happens in years to come—whether fire or ice, war and peace, right or wrong—if we all remain strong and stick together as one community united by our common good values, humankind will always wake up to another day ready to face future that lies before them. TSS

“What the caterpillar calls the end of the world the master calls a butterfly.”
~ Richard Bach 

Happy New Year Everyone!

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