Fit hai boss – Europe in 2011
Defining moment: this modern-day cliché of English language usage probably best sums up 2011. The year may end up defining much of what we will see unfolding in the coming years and decades. As ever, Europe and America had a lot to do with what happened in our lives.
Here’s a potted account of some of the heavy and light moments in the life of Europe 2011:
1. The Eurozone crisis: The Euro was never a good idea, crowed the skeptics – never made sense to force a single currency among rich and poor countries alike without a fiscal standard. Now it’s on the brink, courtesy of profligate (do they really mean lazy?) southerners, the ancient torchbearers of individualism in Europe are raising a glass to what they hope will be the early demise of the European Union.
2. Hackgate: The name Rupert Murdoch is inextricably linked to newspapers that were – and are — known for their flair for investigative reporting. Now the News Corp boss and his son are being investigated by the British parliament and police for their companies’ links with corrupt policemen and illegal phone hacking. Although politicians on the Left are openly gleeful, it was a sad day for the free press when the News of the World closed down on account of its excesses.
3. Sunshine of your Love: In the middle of a gloomy year, the wedding bells rang for Prince William and Kate Middleton. Fed up with stories of doom and gloom, an estimated 300 million people around the world tuned in to watch the gala affair shown live from London. The love story glowed.
4. Entente cordiale: Led perhaps by their dependence on high-quality Libyan oil, the Brits and the French forged a common front to argue forcefully for military intervention in Libya. They persuaded a reluctant America to join in, NATO planes swung into action, Gaddafi was duly removed, hunted and executed and Libyans sniffed the first whiff of democracy after more than 40 years of dictatorship.
5. Le Divorce: But when they were bad they were horrid. David Cameron walked into the Eurozone crisis summit in Brussels and bluntly told fellow summiteers Britain will not sign up to an agreement that would take its sovereignty away, thus torpedoing the Treaty and earning the wrath of Nicolas Sarkozy. France’s leader smarted, fumed and said Cameron behaved like an “obstinate kid.” But the British leader was smiling all the way to London: he had earned the personal approval of Tory heavyweights and neutralized opposition leader Ed Miliband at the close of a politically difficult year.
6. British Riots: Rioting, looting, arson, and violence swept across the towns and cities of England in the month of August, abating only with the senseless killing of two young men in Birmingham. The shell-shocked nation is still trying to come to terms with the events, sparked by the killing of a black man in London. A study by the London School of Economics and The Guardian gives alleged police racism as a reason. But the growth of criminality (gangsta culture) and the breakdown of family structures are evident in parts of urban Britain.
7. Corruption in cricket and football: A shamed quartet of three Pakistani cricketers and a British-Pakistani cricket agent was fined and sent to jail in England for their role in spot-fixing during an England-Pakistan Test match last summer. A sense of despondency ran through in the judge’s ruling. Many fans watching a surprising result in cricket henceforth, said he, will have to fight that flicker of suspicion: was it perhaps fixed? The irony was that the story was broken – the result of a sting — by Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World. Meanwhile, the leadership contest for football’s governing body FIFA was mired by corruption allegations, exposing the ugly face of the beautiful game.
8. Sex and the Italians: They are charges still, but they’ve been around for so long they have now stuck in the public mind. Silvio Berlusconi’s bunga bunga-laced reign came to an end after a year of heightened allegations of palace romps, including sex with prostitutes and underage girls.
9. Sex and the French: The IMF’s French chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn was forced to resign and give up his political ambitions after allegations of sexual assault against a hotel maid in New York. After being cleared by a court, he said the sexual encounter was “consensual but stupid.” But back in Paris, more lay in store for the socialist. Tristane Banon, a 32-year-old writer, alleged Strauss-Kahn tried to sexually assault her while she was interviewing him in 2003. And then Tristane’s mother, Anne Mansouret, said Strauss-Kahn “took me with the vulgarity of a soldier” in 2000. (It’s always men. “I’m telling you,” Candice Miller, a Michigan Republican, told the New York Times, “every time one of these sex scandals goes, we (women politicians) just look at each other, like, ‘What is it with these guys? Don’t they think they’re going to get caught?’”
10. The whilstleblower: The one European story that rivaled tales of financial greed came from another intrepid Australian-born man. Julian Assange and Rupert Murdoch are poles apart in every way and the Left-wing Assange would hate this comparison. Yet, the two men have helped galvanize the press by performing that essential task of the media: exposing wrong-doing. Then both came under a storm of criticism and the threat of a probe into their affairs. Assange’s Wikileaks ignited the virtual and real worlds with leaks from secret US diplomatic cables that made for exciting reading. Unfortunately for Assange, he too came under the cloud of sexual assault allegations, levelled by two Swedish women.
Since we began with English usage, let’s end with it. The word ‘fit’ has entered the British teenager’s vocabulary, used in the sense of someone who is attractive. It could have come from 1970s Delhi.