The year that squatters evict landlords: 2011 wrap up.

Happy 2012. I welcomed the new Gregorian year by watching Heathers, eating vegan meat haters pizza and deep fried calzone, sitting on the couch reviewing this last year.

This blog started out one day in early January 2011 when I was dying my hair turquoise and watching Crybaby with Neon and Cho-mo. That feels like a lifetime ago.

Between then and now I’ve been a live-in caretaker at a radical social centre, edited another issue of the anarchist journal imminent rebellion, started a new band, made a new zine, collaborated on a short documentary, spoke at two zinefests, hung out at the Melbourne anarchist bookfair, went to the Doctor Who Experience in London, saw Public Enemy play, lived in three cities in two continents, ate a lot of amazing vegan food, got to know my awesome younger cousins, tried to record as much of my grandmother’s life story as I could, saw a lot of old friends I’d been missing and spent a lot of time feeling lost and depressed trying to make sense of the past and figure out a direction for the future. I’m making this list for my own benefit, to remind me that I have done a lot this year so I can stop moping about how I’m not doing anything with my life.

But enough about my life! Because 2011 was the most amazing fascinating will-go-down-in-history year I’ve lived through. It’s a funny thing about history, when you read about it in books in seems so fucking action packed and glamorous, but when you’re living through it, it moves really slowly and most of the time you’re just sitting on the couch, and it’s hard to see how epically significant events around you are. TBH, I spent a lot of this year being only vaguely aware of what was happening in the world, and that’s only from reading headlines of links people post on facebook. Oh, well, I guess I’ll read all about it in a history book ten years from now.

This morning Ace and I sat around drinking coffee and tried to recap everything that happened this year. It’s been a year of popular struggles for freedom. The Arab Spring in North Africa and the Middle East, the July 14 movement in Isra(h)ell, the Indignados in Spain, Occupy Wall Street and Occupy Everywhere Else. I know I’m incessantly critical of some of these struggles (the ones that have taken place around me), but I’m critical because these struggles are so damn important, because they affect me, and people I care about. I’m critical because I have extemely high standards for revolutionary struggles because I have an extremely high opinion of humanity. In spite of my constant complaining, it’s incredibly exciting to know that so many people believe a better world is possible and that it’s worth fighting for.

In Palestine/Israel it seems like everyone spent the year waiting for another war to break out. I mean, first there was an uprising in Egypt, which ousted a pro-Israel regime. Then the huge social protests in Israel (which sadly did a pretty crap job of linking economic issues within Israel to the occupation of Palestinian land), and let’s face it, social unrest is enough of a reason for the state to start a war. Then there was the Palestinian Authority’s attempt to get official UN recognition for the State of Palestine. Everyone was expecting a war that week.

Instead, the Israeli government found a different way to distract the population: they finally negotiated the release of Gilad Shalit. Of course, they could’ve done this five years ago and spared the poor guy but no one’s pointing that out. Never mind. I’m glad that Gilad is home with his family. I’m glad for the Palestinian prisoners who got to go home to their families. My thoughts are with all the prisoners still incarcerated in Israeli prisons and administrative detention centres. (Also, the Shalit prisoner exchange created the most hilarious meme I’ve seen all year.)

This time three years ago I was in Jerusalem, and Gaza was being bombed by the Israeli Air Force. Last night Gaza was bombed again. In Gaza City Momen Abu Daf was killed and five other people were injured. Let’s hope 2012 will bring peace and freedom for the people of Gaza, and an end to the siege.

Meanwhile in the UK, some royal person got married. I only bring it up so we have an excuse to watch this awesome clip of Fred Astaire in Royal Wedding:

Also in the UK, police murdered a man named Mark Duggan. In response, there were riots. The capitalist media tut tutted a lot about the ‘racial problems’ of modern Britain. I thought of Emma Goldman’s famous statement that, ‘it requires less mental energy to condemn than it does to think’.

Osama Bin Laden died this year. I’d totally forgotten about that til Ace reminded me. I’m not sure whether that means the War on Terror is over or still going on. That war’s been going on my whole adult life so it’s hard to imagine the world without it. Kim Jung Il also died this year. I guess it’s been a bad year for the Axis of Evil?

More importantly Amy Winehouse died. I wish I could write something about what she meant to Jewish women of my generation, but I don’t know what to say. Zichrona Le’Shalom.

Ace adds that Nicki Minaj was the best thing that happened to pop culture this year. I trust her judgement on this sort of thing.

In Aotearoa this year has been defined by the February quake in Christchurch. It made me think a lot about how natural disasters are social disasters too. No one could’ve prevented the earthquake happening, but the state response to it, the city council’s response, the impact on working class people in Christchurch, all that is a socially constructed disaster. The same can be said of the earthquake in Japan and the subsequent nuclear meltdown. We can’t control seismic events, we can only control how we plan for them, how respond to them, how we look after the survivors.

The charges against most of the defendents in the Operation Eight ‘terrorism raids’ case were dropped. I think that has to have been the most amazing thing that happened this year. Four defendants are still waiting to face trial in 2012. Having sat in on pre-court hearings I don’t think there’s a chance in hell of the charges standing up in court, but then again I’ve learned never to expect anything resembling logic or ethics from the courts.

There was a big rugby hullabaloo, which I thankfully missed out on. Then there was an election, which about a third of eligible voters didn’t bother voting in. I’ve heard a lot of moaning about the apathetic New Zealand public who don’t deserve democracy because they’re too lazy to vote. I think that’s bullshit, if anything it shows how much of the population don’t think voting is relevant to them and don’t think it’s an effective way of improving their lives. Then CMP Rangitikei locked out 111 workers for refusing to accept a pay cut. The amount of solidarity they got nationwide just goes to show that people in New Zealand aren’t that apathetic.

That pretty much exhausts Ace and my list. It was such a huge year it’s hard to remember it all. It’ll be a hard act for 2012 to follow. I’m hoping for more popular uprisings around the world. I’m hoping the social justice movements that took off in 2011 will keep flourishing. I hope they get better at real solidarity, at recognising colonialism, racism, patriarchy as real threats to freedom and justice, and start to prioritise struggling against them.

I’m hoping that Martín Espada’s poem comes true, that 2012 will be the year that squatters evict landlords, and shawled refugees deport judges.

‘if every rebellion begins with the idea
that conquerors on horseback
are not many-legged gods, that they too drown
if plunged in the river,
then this is the year.’

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