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2011, the two winners

The hopes of liberation from dictatorship and penury shine less brightly at the end of this year of movement, says Patrice de Beer.
Patrice de Beer
22 December 2011

There are only two groups that can rejoice at the work of 2011 and anticipate 2012 with pleasure. The first is Islamists, because they won the first democratic elections held after the Arab spring by a clear margin, and are likely to hold executive power in 2012 from Morocco to Egypt (and can hope to do the same in Syria if and when the Bashar al-Assad regime collapses).

The rising by Tunisians, Egyptians, Libyans and others against their old dictators raised many expectations. But in their first free electoral choice a majority chose to vote for those whose ideology promised heaven on earth for the believers and hell to the others. In its way this also gives credit to those in the shaken west who warn against a foreign peril most often equated with Islam or say that Muslims are the source of all ills.

The second group is bankers, whose ability to continue feeding off the west's economic crisis as much or even more than during its boom years guarantees their quiet rejoicing. The fact that they have a big responsibility for the crisis, alongside governments which allowed their countries to become hugely indebted instead of pressing ahead with unpopular reforms, only compounds their merriment. After collecting the reward for their incompetence and greed after the implosion of 2008, they are back as scavengers of a ravaged world (croque-morts, or "dead-eaters", as the French say).

But if these groups are covertly smiling, the responsibility for their success is widely shared. After all, many among us once blamed our parents for having bequeathed us a world of wars and crises. Now, when our own children - left with piles of debts we carelessly accumulated during the supposed good times - ask us to settle accounts, what do we tell them?

Peter Geoghegan: dark money and dirty politics

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