For generations, society has wrongly speculated the end of days is near.
On the eve of the year 2000, Y2K was the harbinger of Judgment Day until after the ball dropped and the world realized it wasn’t. The coming of 2012 has made amateur Mayan historians out of fearful people who feel the apocalypse is nigh. Earlier this year, self-proclaimed prophet Harold Camping falsely predicted the end of the world on three separate occasions. Looking back on how 2011 has unfolded, perhaps Harold Camping’s fourth prediction will be the charm.So many strange things have happened in such unlikely fashion that the world seemed as if it spun off its axis. Charlie Sheen and the Kardashians alternately dominated pop culture in ways that defied reason. Charlie became a Twitter icon by “winning,” even while losing the cushiest gig in television and the lucrative contract that goes along with it.
The Kardashians on the other hand added another $20 million dollars to their growing Reality TV coffers for executive producing and marketing a phony marriage to an NBA journeyman that really wasn’t a marriage after all. Even Nostradamus would have raised an eyebrow at this.
2011 was also the year we witnessed the seemingly impossible. Watch the Throne, the megastar collaboration between Jay-Z and Kanye West didn’t just debut with big numbers, it debuted with zero bootlegging. This is a feat worthy of recognition in the Guinness Book of World Records. It has been more than fifteen years since a Hip Hop album has escaped bootlegging and illegal downloading two weeks prior to the album’s official release date. It will probably be another fifty years before this feat is repeated at the rate digital piracy is devouring the music industry.
2011 was the year of the non battle as well. By the time Jay-Z and Lil Wayne finally fired warning shots, it felt more like they came from cap guns rather than heavy lyrical artillery. Their barbs were more concerned with who has more money than the other’s father figure or who could threaten to kidnap the other’s pop star baby mama. On the undercard of this would-be PPV fight card, Lil Kim nipped at the heels of Nicki Minaj’s stilettos and Ludacris checked Drake’s chin with a diss that will most likely go unanswered. Somewhere LL Cool J and Canibus are rolling over in their battle graves.
Sports in 2011 proved just as unpredictable with NFL and NBA lockouts and historic collapses in baseball. Floyd Mayweather received more criticism for knocking out Ortiz than Manny Pacquiao got for being handed a bogus decision against Marquez. Peyton Manning, the NFL darling who was once on paces to break Brett Favre’s iron man streak of consecutive NFL starts played, will likely not play all season. His Colts are winless and in pole position to draft a stud quarterback to replace him. Tiger Woods spent more time discussing disgruntled caddies than making birdies and Joe Pa went from deity to degenerate for failing to report a pedophile to the police.
Not much made sense about 2011 sports. LeBron James, the face of the NBA, was branded a super villain for signing with the Miami Heat as a free agent. This offended fans unhappy with his seven year tenure in Cleveland. They wanted to see King James broken and shamed and their wish was granted by a disappearing act of Biblical proportions when King James disappeared in the 4th quarters of the NBA Finals. While LeBron couldn’t bring his Dream Team a title, he did help them reach the Finals where they competed for one. The Philadelphia Eagles Dream Team now seems hard pressed to finish their season above .500.
2011 saw the toppling of despots who ruled their countries for generations with an iron fist. In the end, Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, and Libya were all freed during Arab Spring, liberated by the very hands which had been shackled for generations under autocratic rule. The winds of this Arab Spring movement seem to have re-ignited the revolutionary spirit in the United States. While police target Occupy Wall Street encampments from New York to Oakland, the protesters grow more resolute in their quest for economic equality. It seems only a matter of time now before one of these clashes with police produces a martyr for their populist movement. At that point there will be no telling how far this will go.
Change has colored 2011 so it makes sense that President Obama has been at the center of it. While running for office in 2008 President Obama said change would not come easy. Maybe this is what change looks like. During his first term in office, the President passed landmark health care legislation, staved off another depression, ended Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and the war in Iraq, sonned Donald Trump and found time to kill Osama Bin Laden in the same weekend. For these efforts, he has been obstructed by the Right as a radical, criticized by the Left as impotent, and recently targeted by a would-be assassin. He now faces an uphill battle for re-election despite the fact the Republican field has conducted itself more like silly reality show contestants than potential leaders of the free world.
In the past year, the idea of change itself has weathered attack from all directions. There have been generational shifts in everything from music to sports and global and domestic politics. 2011 has proven change can be ugly and even a little scary. The world is transitioning and no one is sure what to make of it. Maybe the Harold Campings of the world are right to repeatedly insist we don’t have much time left. Perhaps the end will soon be here, only to be followed by a new beginning.
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