The Year in Review: Bring on 2011

We watched as history unfolded. Now for the chance to shape it
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The Independent Online

We watched, we listened, we voted. We loved the bugs, we loved the sequins, we loved the songs and we loved the power: the power to make, and, much more enjoyably, break, a life, a psyche, a career.

We could jeer, we could cheer, we could tweet, we could bleat, we could tap away at our tiny keyboards and treat the world, or our "followers", to our collective thoughts on why Ann, or Matt, or Stacey, should win. And we could do all this without even leaving the sofa! Power to the people, for the people, by the people, starring the people, for the entertainment of the people, and perhaps the distraction of the people from those other votes we cast and the drama they unleashed.

Gordon, it was clear, had to go, because even car-crash telly has its limits, and while it's fun to see someone demolished on stage, it's not such fun to watch them being flayed alive. We'd had enough of Gordon, but we didn't want Dave, and we didn't want Nick, though we said, after watching him on telly, that we did, though perhaps we didn't realise that to get any of them you had to get up off the sofa, and, after the duck-houses, we didn't really want to, and so, in the end, some of us did, and some of us didn't, and some of us dithered, and some of us didn't, and what we got, when the votes had been counted, was what you'd technically call a dog's dinner.

But who knew that a dog's dinner could be such fun? After a bit of Blind Date, and a bit of Wife Swap, and a bit of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, and a lovely wedding in a garden dripping with wisteria, we got a bit of Brideshead and a bit of Downton Abbey. Who knew that young men could be so well brought up? Who knew that they could be so polite? And so charming? And so grown up? Who knew that they could face a massive mess, triggered by a global crisis, and shake their heads, and tell us, calmly, politely, and with a sprinkling of wit that didn't detract from the gravitas, that they knew exactly what had to be done?

And so, like a bunch of scholarship boys who had disgraced ourselves and been summoned to the headmaster's study, we waited for news of our fate. Six of the best, we were told, and, as a matter of honour, it would be six of the best for everyone.

Well, we didn't want six of the best, but the people who were telling us we had to submit to it were so calm, and so confident – so masterful, you might almost say – that it was actually rather thrilling. The grown ups were right. Everything was in a frightful stew, and what was needed now was order. Let's stiffen our backs, and our upper lips, and be done.

It all sounded fairly fair, and, when we heard that the lower classes were getting their six of the best several times over, that sounded even fairer. One didn't want to be unkind, of course, but they had become a terrible nuisance, breeding like rabbits, living in mansions in Chelsea, and expecting hard-working families who would kill to live in Chelsea to pick up the bill. We couldn't keep paying for their whims, and we couldn't keep paying for all these local services.

Volunteers sounded like a much better idea. We ourselves would love to do some voluntary work, though at the moment we're a bit busy with the job, and the family, and the sofa.

This, in fact, was the year of the sofa. It was the year when the dramas on our TVs were mostly culled from so-called real life, and when the real-life mess we all found ourselves in turned into drama – but top-notch, gripping, classy drama.

It was a pleasure to see the nice young men rolling up their sleeves, and cradling their babies, and kissing their lovely wives. It was a pleasure to hear them making clever quips in the House. And it was a pleasure to see one of them getting all the blame when things started to go wrong. You can't, after all, have drama without a bit of conflict, and a bit of cruelty.

Next year is the year we have to get up off the sofa and join in. Some of us will have to move our sofa, to another home, or another borough, or another town. Some of us will have to do this because the council won't pay the rent on our homes. Some of us will have to do this because we've lost our jobs. Some of us will get jobs again. Some of us won't. Some of us will cope well with the move. Some of us won't. Some of us will think that you can't make an omelette without breaking a few eggs. Some of us, and particularly if we're the eggs, won't.

We have, this year, on our TV screens, between bouts of Ann and Matt and Stacey, watched people struck by an earthquake a year ago no better off a year on, and people struck by floods five months ago no better off five months on. We've watched the casualties of history on our screen, and we've thought that that is history, and this, here, on our sofa, watching our telly, isn't.

2011 will be a year when history strikes more of us. It might also be the year when more of us realise that we, with our arguments, our protests, our ideas, our engagement, and our votes, actually make it.

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