End of year summaries and lists are in full frenzy, and if anything uses up space in late December space-fillers, it’s the “Word of the Year”. With this year being particularly cuckoo-bananas, trying to sum up the whole thing in one word is hard. It’s been a good year to disprove the attitude that ideology has died: this year has been, if anything, more polarised than any time in generations. Time-travelling Soviets could zip forward to any point during this year to assume the collapse in respect towards the police and politicians meant they were onto a winner.
The “Occupy” movement has defined this year, with all the other protests and riots branching off like tree made from malevolence. Although the aims and ambitions of the “Occupy” lot haven’t yet achieved anything, their attitudes and methods dictate and decide the patterns of anti-austerity protests across Europe and the Middle East freedom marches. Each educates each other – methods, slogans, processes. As one “Occupy” movement uses foursquare or Twitter or Google+, so another learns to do the same. The aims may be fuzzy, the ambitions confused, but the methods are unlike anything the Establishment has seen before. This is what happens when the ideology which fed the 60s and 70s teenage marches is super-sized.
Cynical about the markets and corporatism, comfortable with turning the word “occupy” into a capitalised brand, “Occupy” is the measure of 2011, its skeleton and its organs. Whether you agree with those who camp out fully or not, their actions have redefined the protest movement forever. The word “occupy” has been adapted, redefined, reformed, from something implicated with war and detention to expression and freedom. Suddenly “occupy” can also represent the possibility of change, not a determination to crush the human spirit. “Occupy” protesters are themselves an ill-defined bunch – some are more anarchic than others – though until their own organisation begins to break down they have successfully made an synonym of “organise”.
Nominations for “word of the year” tend to focus on technology (“check in”, “share”, “Andrioid”) or culture (“hipster”, “chinos”, “pop-up restaurant”). It seems more important this year to look deeper than material goods. That’s why politics retains its importance and relevance, and how 2012 is already defined by what politics cannot deliver.