Was 2012 the year of Barack Obama, Usain Bolt, PSY, or Kony 2012? This past year’s headlines were filled with both uplifting and tragic news, but there are other reasons to celebrate: never in the history of the world has there been less hunger, disease, poverty, or inequality. The developing world’s economies are growing, global life expectancy is rising, and AIDS and malaria are declining. Thanks to globalization and relative global peace, 2012 can literally be measured as the best year ever – and not just because Jersey Shore ended. Now let’s turn back the clock and check out the headlines.
US PoliticsIn the United States, politics seemed more defined by the presidential election than the president himself. The campaign battle between Obama and Mitt Romney was perhaps the most negative, aggressive, and expensive presidential election in the binders full of history. While Obama was the first Democrat since WWII to receive a second absolute majority of the public vote (51% vs. 47.3%), the cost of the election exceeded $2 billion. Meanwhile, this was the fourth year in a row the US deficit was thirteen digits long. For his domestic and foreign efforts, Obama was named Time’s Person of the Year — like nearly every other president of recent history.
International HeadlinesOutside of the US, the year was filled with both conflict and celebration. Recently, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict heated up, and Palestine was recognized by the UN General Assembly as a sovereign non-member state. The effects of the Arab revolutions continued to reverberate across the Middle-East, alongside the Syrian civil war and political struggles in Egypt. However, there have been fewer war deaths in the last decade than any time in the last century. International news headlines have ranged from the sinking of the Costa Concordia cruise ship in January to Kate Middleton’s December reveal: the reason her face will once again be plastered across every magazine in the Loblaw’s check-out line.
TragediesThis year’s headlines were also flooded with disasters. Hurricane Sandy tore apart North America’s East Coast as well as the Twitterverse, and captive audiences were informed repeatedly of multiple fatal mass shootings. The most reported catastrophes were the Aurora shooting during a screening of The Dark Knight Rises in July, and the Newtown Connecticut public school tragedy in December; other fatal shootings also occurred in Toronto’s Eaton Centre and at a Sikh Temple in Wisconsin. The 2012 India blackouts resulted in a power outage that affected nearly 10% of the world population, and interestingly the most widespread catastrophe of 2012 was not a military war or a natural disaster, but a technological failure.
In sports news, Spain’s football team won the Euro 2012 championships and Lance Armstrong was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles after being accused of “the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that the sport has ever seen.” For American and Canadian sports fans, disappointments this year included NFL replacement referees that were met with explosive controversy, and the NHL lockout that resulted in a near non-existent hockey season. Finally, the 2012 Summer Olympics captivated global audiences with incredible performances by Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps, and London’s opening and closing ceremonies included performances by Mr. Bean, The Who, One Direction, and the Spice Girls.
Many of us will forever associate this year with the hit singles that the music industry has produced during the last twelve months. Songs such as “Somebody That I Used to Know,” “We Are Young,” and Taylor Swift’s “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” topped the charts. Two defining anthems of 2012 were Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe” and PSY’s “Gangnam Style,” both of which skyrocketed to international popularity. By Christmas, the “Gangnam Style” music video had become the first video to reach over a billion views on YouTube, and the song and dance have spread across the global culture. Is “Gangnam Style” this generations’ “Thriller”? Only time will tell.
Movies and Television
2012 was an exciting year in Hollywood. The two highest-grossing films were both superhero flicks, the spectacular The Avengers and the stunning The Dark Knight Rises. The hunt was on, whether it was for your competitors (The Hunger Games), Osama bin Laden (Zero Dark Thirty), or for your time-travelling future (Looper). In television, Homeland transformed the conventional “will they/won’t they” storyline with terrorist appeal, while viewership ratings confirmed that the public cannot get enough of singing competitions and laugh tracks.
2012 was the time for innovative consumer electronics. Apple unveiled predictable yet modernizing improvements to their already successful line-up while the company made headlines because of vicious and heavily-publicized patent battles with Samsung. Microsoft jumped all in with their new Windows 8 operating system that focuses on a tile-based interface to complement computer desktops, the Surface tablet, and Windows Phone 8. Google Android rose in popularity while RIM shares plummeted. Of course, we only have more bells and whistles to look forward to in the new year (check out the Verge’s video).
As our society continues to transition into the online world, the Internet has become more influential and representative of global culture. The three most common Yahoo searches were “Elections,” “iPhone 5,” and “Kim Kardashian.” Barack Obama’s victory tweet “Four more years” was re-tweeted over 810,000 times, and cemented its place in Twitter history alongside the avalanche of tweets regarding the U. S. presidential election, the Summer Olympics, and Whitney Houston’s death. Never has the Internet been so connected to the pulse of global society.
Technological Discoveries and Events
Technology doesn’t end with what consumers can use; it includes findings that will inevitably define our future. The discovery of the Higgs Boson particle and the success of the landing of the Curiosity rover on Mars in August (just days before Neil Armstrong passed away) will give us new insight into our universe. Our world is increasingly being driven by technology, with 2012 marking many firsts – Felix Baumgartner’s space dive from the stratosphere was the first time a human broke the sound barrier without an engine – as well as many lasts: the Encyclopedia Britannica discontinued its print edition after 244 years of publications, revealing the digital trends of society.
So what will 2012 be remembered most for in the future? For the enormous election, our response to civilian shootings, or our inaction during foreign wars? Will Bolt, Houston, and PSY cement their place in history, or will our year be noted for consumer technology?
Or perhaps the greatest discoveries slipped past the major headlines: the new liquid metal Ambri battery could revolutionize electricity storage technology; 3D printing is on the rise; and a new state of matter called quantum spin liquid was discovered, and could lead to new forms of magnetic storage and data communication. With 2012 in the rear-view mirror and 2013 ahead of us, we can only imagine what the future will bring and hope for an even brighter new year.
Kevin Chao is an OPENWIDE Staff Writer who, when not analyzing annual trends, plays Frisbee, browses Reddit, and puts off going to the gym.