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The Decade in Pictures, The New York Times, December 2019
The End Of Civilization As We Knew It, Part Seventeen.
The last winter solstice in the north and summer in the south of the second decade of the new millennium is here.
The 2010’s are coming to an end.
A time for reflection. A decade worth reflection.
The New York Times every year ends the year with a summary through photos. This year, they’ve also done it for the decade. And included every photo of the year collection during the decade.
It’s an indescribable journey.
Except to say that the images repeat and remind of what we are facing as a species.
When we started our series The End Of Civilization As We Knew It, on the summer solstice in the north and winter in the south a year and a half ago, we quoted, among other things, the text with the pictures of the year for 2015.
Here’s an excerpt from the post:
2015, in fact, had been a year of catastrophic warning. Here’s an excerpt from our second post in 2016, about photos of the year in The New York Times:
“One more look at pictures from 2015, from The New York Times. The introduction follows:
THIS was the year of the great unraveling, with international orders and borders challenged or broken, with thousands of deaths, vast flows of migrants and terrorist attacks on some of the most cherished symbols of civilization, both Western and Muslim.
Palmyra and Paris (twice). Aleppo, Homs, Kobani and even San Bernardino, Calif. The Syrian war grinds on, half the prewar population displaced or gone, and the Islamic State fills a vacuum created by sectarian struggle and Western fatigue.
The conflict spurred the migrants lapping against the shores of bourgeois Europe, a million or more, huddled in small boats or crammed into airless trucks, abused by human traffickers, thousands dead on the journey, prompting both empathy and backlash.
Just look. The year is here.
The outrages of Boko Haram and the Shabab in Africa. The abuse of the Rohingya minority in Myanmar. The war in Ukraine and the resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan. New tensions in the skies over the Baltics and a Russian plane shot down by a NATO country for the first time in decades.
The ruins still in Gaza, a year after a brutal and inconclusive war, and Israel hunkering down in a region losing its compass. Even the energetic secretary of state, John Kerry, has given up on serious negotiations for Mideast peace.
So much uncertainty, anxiety, anomie, so many civilian victims: A crazed German pilot flew his plane into the French Alps; a Russian plane was destroyed over Sinai by what seemed to have been a bomb; attackers with automatic weapons killed 130 people in Paris in restaurants, a stadium and a concert hall.
Even the Earth seemed slightly unhinged ‘ the ice caps melting, sheep stuck in the smog of Beijing, huge snowstorms and floods, a major earthquake in Nepal, one of the world’s poorest countries.
And in the United States, it was a year of anger and protest against police brutality, with racial unrest ripping apart Baltimore and Ferguson, Mo. A massacre of black worshipers in a church in Charleston, S.C. Drought and terror in California, blows to the myth of paradise.
Presidential politics took on a carnival atmosphere during the pre-primary season, with an amazing cast of would-be successors to a grayer, grumpier Barack Obama. Bernie Sanders, the sort-of socialist from Vermont by way of Brooklyn, was giving Hillary Clinton a run, at least, for her mounds of campaign money. Donald J. Trump thrilled, amused and horrified, depending on your point of view, with his populist fulminations, his hairdo and his narcissism.
But not all of the memorable events of the year were about loss, violence and terrorism.
The changing climate brought a historic if relatively toothless deal to cut carbon emissions and help the poorest countries cope.
The massacre in Charleston helped lower the Confederate flag over the South Carolina State House. The Supreme Court made same-sex marriages legal throughout the land.
The United States and the United Nations Security Council finally reached a deal to limit Iran’s nuclear ambitions, promising some sanctions relief and opening a still-uncertain path toward a Syrian settlement.
In another resolution of a longstanding diplomatic sore, the United States recognized Cuba. And Myanmar’s military government seemed at last to recognize the political victory of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, who stuck to her principles through decades of house arrest.”
Even many of the good parts noted at the end turned bad as we look back.
As the Times noted, it was mid-decade of the 2010’s when the great unravelling became clear. And as we’ve pointed out, these reference points are just that, as history is an ongoing process.
One reference point that normally would have had enormous media coverage went unnoticed in the ongoing toxic news, or un-news, of our time–the fall of the Berlin Wall thirty years ago last month. It seemed impossible and breathtaking when this peaceful revolution succeeded and marked the end of the Cold War. An historic opportunity for global democracy and human rights, at first promising, but soon deteriorating into increased inequality.
In many ways, the 2010’s started at the end of 2008, with the financial crisis revealing the depths of economic inequality and systemic rot, which then went unaddressed. The reflex to sustain an unsustainable system was predictable in some respects, rather than suffering the pain of hitting-bottom. But sustaining the unsustainable inequality underneath it all just put off and made the consequences all the worse.
Fifty years ago today, one of the writers here, as a young student activist, was writing a poem, Dirge for the Eve of Christ’s Birth: 1969. It was mimeographed and hand-distributed to scores of Seattle families on Christmas Eve. It caused quite a stir. And in many ways marked the start of our work.
Here’s an excerpt:
On this eve of Christ’s birth two millenniums gone by, for the little it’s worth I must sit here and cry.
With Bethlehem came the sun, a message of hope… I see nothing but haters with guns and neurotics with dope.
I see nothing but talk of peace and brotherhood, the message of the season, while the blood of the oppressed spills without cease, killing goes no for no reason.
I see nothing but lethargic thousands content with their American Dream, while the miserable millions are too busy starving to dream.
I long for Spring’s promise of life to be born amidst Winter’s shadow of death. I long for an end to all strife; for the child of peace to breathe his first breath!
So on this eve of Christ’s birth two millenniums gone by, for the little it’s worth… you may find it easy to cry.
The poem was much longer than this short excerpt, and wrenching.
Some of the words would change today. And in many respects, progress was made around the world after this was written.
The world is on fire as we write. The fire of war and death on the streets of more cities and nations at the same time than perhaps ever. Not unlike 1968, the year which preceded the dirge above. But with even more fury and focus. Said by name everywhere. Inequality. Economic and social injustice. While other fires threaten to burn-up the planet.
Will we survive it?
That’s up to all of us.
Here’s The Decade in Pictures from The New York Times, December 2019, with the introduction by Joseph Kahn, managing editor:
The image shows a rebel fighter in Libya thrusting his Kalashnikov straight into the air as a truck-mounted rocket fires toward forces loyal to Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, the Libyan dictator. It was the start of 2011, the heady early days of the Arab Spring. The photo is heroic. It is also foreboding.
A short time after that image was shot, Colonel el-Qaddafi was dead, a dictator removed and a popular uprising triumphant. But any celebration was fleeting. The photographer, Chris Hondros, died tragically covering the indiscriminate and interminable war there. The brief, flickering notion that the revolutions of the Arab Spring would herald a new era of openness and representative democracy in the world vanished quickly as well.
Instead, it now seems clear, the 2010s will be remembered as a decade of unceasing upheaval. The impulse to overthrow the entrenched elite reached every continent, sometimes with violent uprisings, sometimes with populist insurgencies that shook the institutions of leading democracies. As the decade closes out, it seems clear that a long period of fission, defined by the fraying of norms, the weakening of traditional political parties and the upending of post-Cold War alliances, has yet to fully run its course.
There have been other decades in history in which a revolutionary fervor or populist unrest went viral. A wave of uprisings against monarchy shook Europe in the 1840s. Indebted farmers in the United States revolted against the railroad barons and the Eastern elites in the 1890s. Mass protests at the end of the 1980s and beginning of the 1990s overthrew governments or transformed much of the communist world.
The unrest of the 2010s seems more varied and more global. But it is not difficult to imagine that the period will be remembered by history as another fateful era of populist tumult.
Few of the photographers illustrating the stories of the day could have seen that coming 10 years ago. Yet many of the most memorable images document its spread. During the early days of the antigovernment uprising in Yemen, an unforgettable photograph of a woman cradling a wounded relative inside a mosque turned hospital, by Samuel Aranda, is the counterpoint to Chris Hondros’s rebel fighter — the pain of conflict, in Yemen as in Libya, still searing a decade later.
The war in Syria began in 2011 as an isolated revolt against the dictatorship of Bashar al-Assad. There, too, civil war became a breeding ground for other discontents. Turkey’s aerial bombing of Tilsehir Hill in Syria, captured in a 2014 photo by Bulent Kilic, is a reminder of the many forces, ethnic, religious and geopolitical, drawn into Syria’s turmoil.
And then there were those who were pushed out. They risked their lives to cross the Mediterranean, some through now-porous Libya on the northern coast of Africa, others fleeing the uninhabitable cities across Syria for the apparent safety of Europe. Sergey Ponomarev’s photograph in late 2015 of migrants arriving on the island of Lesbos, in Greece, looks biblical, a desperate crossing made on faith and rickety boats.
Those migrants served as more than a release valve for conflict in the developing world. They also set off discontent, fueling a series of populist insurgencies in Europe, most notably Brexit, but also the Marine Le Pen movement in France and the rightist AfD in Germany. All were inspired by — and helped spread hostility toward — immigration and the globalist, free trade, open-border ideals of the European elite.
The United States never agreed to accept more than a tiny share of those displaced by conflicts in Northern Africa and the Middle East. But immigration of people from predominantly Muslim countries and Latin America was one factor that helped power the rise of an especially unlikely populist, Donald J. Trump. The iconic images of the second half of the decade as often capture the newly exposed rifts in American society as ongoing instability abroad.
At one end of the spectrum is a photograph of Ieshia Evans, who made a defiant stand against police officers at a protest in Baton Rouge, La., to call for action against excessive force by the police against black men and women. At the other, in Georgia, in the spring of 2018, is the lighting of a swastika after a rally of the National Socialist Movement, amid a rise in white supremacist violence.
The enduring photos by Damon Winter, Doug Mills and Erin Schaff capture both the Trump campaign and the Trump presidency: an ardent young follower at a rally; a crisply cuffed president in the cabinet room; a meeting with Kim Jong-un of North Korea at the DMZ; and Nancy Pelosi’s “clap back” at the State of the Union address. Each recalls a distinct moment in presidential history: an American leader who stokes division and celebrates defiance of past presidential norms.
The decade closes with the House of Representatives voting to impeach Mr. Trump, ensuring that instability will continue to define politics at the opening of a new decade as it did the one we leave behind.
An environmental crisis in
the Gulf of Mexico, and a
volcano causes chaos in Europe.
2010 was rocked by natural disasters, with a destructive quake in Haiti and devastating floods in Pakistan. Elsewhere, the U.S. doubled down on its mission in Afghanistan.
The Arab Spring takes hold, and
a space program comes to an end.
2011 was a year of revolution, as Arab Spring uprisings spread and the Occupy movement rallied against economic inequality. There was also a royal wedding.Visit the Year in Pictures here →
Hurricane Sandy ravages the
Northeast, and a massacre at
a school in Newtown, Conn.
2012 saw civil war take hold in Syria, feats of athleticism at the London Olympics, and divided voters re-elect President Obama.Visit the Year in Pictures here →
Bomb blasts at the Boston
Marathon, and a devastating
typhoon in the Philippines.
In 2013, gunmen stormed a mall in Kenya, a factory collapsed in Bangladesh, and the world said goodbye to Nelson Mandela. Visit the Year in Pictures here →
Fiery antigovernment protests
in Ukraine, and one of the
greatest sports catches ever.
In 2014, the largest Ebola outbreak in history swept West Africa, hundreds died in a South Korean ferry disaster and Ferguson, Mo., became the epicenter of U.S. racial politics and protest.Visit the Year in Pictures here →
A vast flow of migrants to Europe,
and a march in Selma, Ala.
2015 saw Paris attacked twice by terrorists, the U.S. Supreme Court affirming same-sex marriage as a nationwide right, and a migrant toddler’s death that horrified the world.Visit the Year in Pictures here →
A fierce presidential campaign
and Black Lives Matter protests.
2016 brought shock, as Donald Trump defied polls to win the U.S presidency and Britons voted to leave the E.U. There was also the death of the longtime Cuban leader, Fidel Castro.Visit the Year in Pictures here →
The #MeToo movement and
an exodus from Myanmar.
In 2017, women across the world rallied for their rights, the fight against the Islamic State surged, and Hurricane Harvey ravaged Texas. Visit the Year in Pictures here →
Detentions of migrant families,
and a heartbreaking image of war.
2018 saw a migrant crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border, a Supreme Court nominee in the spotlight and a massacre at a Florida school that sparked a worldwide gun control movement.Visit the Year in Pictures here →
Unrest in Hong Kong and
a devastating fire in France.
In 2019 the news played out on the streets, with protests from Hong Kong to Venezuela, to France, Britain and Chile. There was also a historic meeting in North Korea.Visit the Year in Pictures here →
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- “‘Chilling’ Plans: Who Gets Care as Washington State Hospitals Fill Up?, The New York Times
- “Human Rights Day Letter to President Ramaphosa: Overcoming Inequality will help us overcome Covid-19”, Daily Maverick
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