Eye on the Year


The Earth Shook & Burn But
The World Only Moved Sideways

A year of extremes but no breakthroughs. Records of the wrong kind (U.S.’s longest armed conflict in Afghanistan and worst environmental disaster ever, highest temperature indexes in several regions of the world, increased infection diseases mortality rates in the Caribbean and Africa, and staggering drug trafficking casualties in Latin America) plagued the world, with the additional bonus of a certified freak: a snowstorm in the middle of the Australian summer.
But there was no progress in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks; no curbs on Iranian and North Korean authoritarian antics or scary nuclear ambitions; no meaningful proposals to solve political impasses in the Ivory Coast, Sudan, Rwanda, Nigeria or Zimbabwe.
Disturbing tactics did get deployed, though, by the world’s superpowers but with the only intention of curbing whistle blowers and freedom of information acts such as WikiLeaks. It gave civil rights activists of every stripe a chilling pause to see international law enforcement agencies going after them, the messengers, rather than pursuing leads to the purveyors of the terror message itself.
It’s not that the world somehow for a moment stopped being the irresistible magnet to such deranged agendas of domination and political zealotry it’s always been. It was sobering to watch some attempting with truculence, populism and posturing to do what only efficient and honest police work can deliver. It became increasingly harder to distinguish between those who do want to hurt us from the many in charge to protect us.
What undeniably transpired from the WikiLeaks episode may signal an unacceptable trend: a newly found taste for secrecy and exclusion by powerful military conglomerates.
There’s a hostile climate towards those who have the right and demand to be part of the decisions taken in their name and that’s intolerable.
The world’s is more than ever split along lines of record-making profits and increased unemployment and poverty. Two years after its biggest downfall, and partly rescued throughout the world by taxpayers and government fresh money, global financial concerns reemerged even more powerful.
So far, banks and unregulated financial institutions have eluded any enforceable accountability for the catastrophic lost of wealth its products caused to investors, and remain in the position to dictate legislation favorable to its interests anytime it’s necessary. Calls for greater government oversight to curb and monitor their business models remain in planning stages at best and may wind up not having any law enforcement teeth to speak of.
On the other hand, U.S. and Western European middle and working classes have seen their purchase power rapidly dwindling and their ability to access the work force each time more limited. Higher health and professional training costs, along with increased restrictions to join organized labor have, in practice, put way too high a price stamp in the ability to land a job compatible financially and professionally with one’s previous experience.
For the most part, unions no longer play meaningful roles in the negotiation table for better wages and improved professional conditions.
The U.S., mired into the quagmire of two record-breaking expensive wars and with no clear goals to achieve or withdraw from them, remains bogged down by their staggering financial and human costs. As the New Year begins, the nation is unable to offer a practical alternative to a powerful right-wing wave minority, which now occupies the political debate as a corporate mouthpiece to sway important decisions in favor of less regulation and minimal oversight.
Congress remains dominated by a wealthy, privileged cast of legislators deeply compromised to enforce the interests of their sponsors. Campaign finance reform completely lost its momentum a few election cycles back and it’s been a non-starter in the current political debate.
But some see signs of hope in the new Supreme Court team about to start its new term. Since President Bush, the land’s highest court has been long in opinion and short in resolutions, siding up with companies against individual causes more often than not. The reason for guarded optimism is mainly focused on three new members who, despite lack of bench experience, may restore some resemblance of equilibrium in court decisions.
China is quickly occupying a leadership role in the production of cheap goods and absorption of unqualified labor, as it does not consider itself constrained by prevailing rules of international professional work relations. It’s authoritarian regime will do what it sees fit to promote social development and growth, regardless the negative impact its policies may exert over the rights of its citizenry or global environment concerns.
Elsewhere, global trends points to an India-style social development pyramid: hundreds of millions living under the poverty line, support an exponentially smaller number of workers in the high-tech and low-end software industries, topped by a very restricted and fiery cast of a few thousand billionaires. Access to education, infrastructure and luxury goods is locked in the upper part of the pyramid. The food industry is dominated by the vagaries of the global commodities markets and subjected to seasonal fluctuations as everywhere else.
The most talked about emerging market economy in the past few years has been Brazil, and it’s proponents point to two major factors for its unprecedented economic stability: President Lula’s personal charisma and an independent central bank monetary policy, that did navigated several treacherous international crisis without giving too much in to political pressures from corporate and government sides.
These won’t hold quite the same sway with President Rousseff. Regardless of her personal style, crucial social challenges such Brazil’s so-called informal economy, an astonishingly unregulated production of wealth, and its young, hungry and uneducated population of close to 100 million living in subhuman conditions in big cities will jump back to centerstage and may seriously risk her new government proposals.
Plus, an untrained work force; an economy still dominated by the production of commodities and low-end consumer goods; a compromised sense of citizenry, breeding rampant criminality and impunity, and, perhaps where investors are the most concerned, an overburden tax code, will always be factors as well in any possible proposition for future growth of the country.
The World Cup in 2014, and the Winter Games, two years later, are big enough events to serve as anchors and galvanize a push in major infrastructural public works, crucial for them and for Brazil’s overall goal of exponentially increasing its trade. But before any brick has been laid on, or new road and railroad are being built, and radical improvements in the urban and farm energy grids are made, to meet the future’s increased demand, there’s already talk of delays and backroom concessions, pressure from local leaderships, and so on. The old fashioned “Brazilian way,” so to speak.
For Brazil, for all its well intentioned ambition to play a go-to nation role in the context of world political decisions, it remains at heart a deeply insulated culture, still prioritizing the handshake over clear rules, still searching for the right balance between a nation that needs to make unsentimental, unwavering decisions about its destiny, or to remain a tourist backyard, a year-round summer playground to the world’s jet set.
Because the country where the world’s biggest rainforest is daily depleted, with vast geographic dimensions to boot, that speaks a far-off field language, with its own issues of ingrained racism, exacerbated messianic faiths, and inordinate resources towards a multi-billion dollar annual feast and a barely professional football league, needs no other fronts to do battle at.
Brazil’s greatest promise is also its great vulnerability: it’s ability to plan and execute an imaginative and effective, long term program for growth, that takes into consideration all elements of its equation: basic human rights, food, housing, education and security, urban development and infrastructure, green energy policy, coherent monetary policy and constant monitoring of its political class and system.
The threat against Brazil’s stability no longer comes from the barracks but from its shocking levels of social inequalities, the bleeding veins of its youth, roaming the streets unemployed, undernourished and out of access. They need to regain their footing as protagonists of this future Brazil talks about or there won’t be one for them or anybody else.



* http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/12/27/mexico-drug-violence-2-mu_n_801737.html
* http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/12/27/karzai-releasing-drug-tra_n_801587.html
* http://www.freakyweather.com/
* http://repoweramerica.org/blog/2010-the-year-in-extreme-weather/
* http://www.noaanews.noaa.gov/stories2010/20100715_globalstats.html

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