2011 is a year full of momentous goodbyes all over the world. Global citizens have bid farewell to some of the most prominent figures in world history, along with some established institutions and practices. Some are easy to forget, some aren’t quite–no matter how hard you try.
1. Hosni Mubarak (Presidency: 1981 – February 11, 2011)
It was the fire from self-immolation of a Tunisian street vendor last December in protest of the abuse from local authority that had sparked an unprecedented rage and rallies that eventually toppled longtime Arab leaders left and right this year. In Egypt, then-President Hosni Mubarak, throughout nearly three decades in power, had fueled the fire of revolution with allegations of corruption and abuse of power. His handling of hundreds of thousands of protesters in Tahrir Square single-handedly put out his last flame as one of Egypt’s longest-serving ruler.
2. Richard Leacock (1921 – March 23, 2011)
(Photo by G. Andrew Boyd for Richard Leacock’s website)
Richard “Ricky” Leacock is a British filmmaker, director, cinematographer and film producer, whose works had ignited the documentary style widely known as cinéma vérité. The cinematographic approach allowing the subjects or the stories to tell themselves and giving “the feeling of being there” without or with the least presence of filmmakers was put to good use by Leacock in many of his documentaries, e.g. “Primary (1960),” a film that featured the campaigns of two Democratic presidential candidates: John F. Kennedy and Hubert Humphrey. Leacock later co-founded a film school at MIT and taught there for twenty years before moving to Paris, where he spent his final days. In the age where subjectivity in journalism and storytelling is rare, cinéma vérité remained a valuable option ones could choose to portray reality.
3. Osama bin Laden (1957 – May 2, 2011)
(Photo by Pete Souza from The White House’s photostream on Flickr)
Nearly 10 years after 9/11, the American government finally left no stone unturned. Osama bin Laden, the founder of jihadist organization Al-Qaeda and one of the FBI’s most wanted terrorists, was killed by the U.S. special forces military unit on a private residential compound in Pakistan. [Story about a guy who unknowingly live-tweeted the raid is here.] In a speech on the occasion, even though U.S. President Barack Obama said “justice has been done, he insisted “The cause of securing our country is not complete.” Accordingly, Al-Qaeda put the network’s second-in-command as bin Laden’s successor and vowed that the holy war against the U.S. and Israel would continue.
4. News of the World (1843 – July 10, 2011)
For a print newspaper in the digital era, News of the World brought to itself a very unique demise. After 168 years of publication, Rupert Murdoch’s sensationalized British tabloid, once the world’s top selling English language newspaper, was gripped by phone-hacking allegations in the past five years. This year’s revelation of a phone-hacking scandal of a murdered 13-year-old girl drew a tremendous public backlash, brought former and current editors to justice, and had Murdoch and his son James questioned by a British House of Commons committee. Two-hundred jobs were lost as the final edition of NotW came out on July 10.
5. Abhisit Vejjajiva (Premiership: December 17, 2008 – August 5, 2011)
(Photo by Peerapat Wimolrungkarat (@is50mm) from Abhsiti Vejjajiva’s photo stream on Flickr)
A British-born, Eton-plus-Oxford-educated (relatively) young Thai politician, Abhisit “Mark” Vejjajiva had managed to keep his image impeccable since he first won a parliamentary seat in 1992. However, last year’s deadly military crackdown on anti-government protesters on the streets of Thailand’s capital undeniably left his hands tainted. Bloodied but unbowed, Abhisit called a general election to let voters decide if he remained the man this Southeast Asian nation could count on. On the night of July 3, 2011, Vejjajiva gave way to Yingluck Shinawatra, the youngest sister of ousted Prime Minister Thaksin, after the ruling Democrat Party was beaten by its major rival, the Pheu Thai Party, by over 100 seats.
Abhisit was re-elected the leader of the Democrat Party shortly after the general election. He was summoned by investigators to give testimony about the crackdown on December 9, 2011.
6. “Don’t ask, don’t tell” Policy (1993 – September 20, 2011)
“Don’t ask, don’t tell” (DADT) was a 1993 U.S. law that allowed homosexual personnel to serve in the military only as long as they kept their sexual orientation in the closet. As the White House put it, DADT was “a discriminatory policy that forced patriotic Americans to serve under a cloud of anxiety and isolation and stood in stark contrast to our shared values of unity and equality.” U.S. President Barack Obama signed into the law to repeal the act last year, and the end of DADT came on September 20 this year.
7. Steve Jobs (1955 – October 5, 2011)
“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.”
— Steve Jobs, 2005
P.S. To mourn Jobs’ departure, some Scrooges at Bangkok’s infamous iPhone/iPad jail breaking arena even suspended their service on the day he passed away.
8. Moammar Gaddafi (1942 – October 20, 2011)
Colonel Gaddafi was the Arab world’s longest-serving leader until he, after two months in hiding, was captured in his hometown by forces loyal to the new government. Serious human rights abuses, support for a variety of terrorist groups worldwide, a lengthy, rambling speech at the United Nations and an unverified footage of his death on a camera phone will always be remembered.
9. Kim Jong-il (1941 – December 17, 2011)
10. Václav Havel (1936 – December 18, 2011)
A Czech writer-turned-dissident-turned-president, Havel was a man who brought down the 40-year Communist rule in Czechoslovakia while mapping strategies in a theater in Prague. He later became the first president of the Czech Republic–a role he reluctantly accepted–after the country split in 1993.