Where would the World be without Time’s ‘The Protester?’
The 84th ‘Person of the Year,’ Time Magazine’s yearly tradition of awarding (though certainly not always celebrating) the most influential person of the past 365 days has been chosen. It was not an individual person nor a thing, but many persons: in an appropriate choice, Time honored ‘The Protester’.
Agree or disagree, there is no denying that ‘The Protester’ lives up to the very reason that Time gives the award. ‘Person of the Year’ is not a popularity contest (several past winners definitely would have been pushed off the stage) nor is it a measure of ‘goodness’ (again, does any sane person want to state that Adolf Hitler or Ayatollah Khomeini did much good for the world? I think not). Time judges it’s candidates by how much they influenced the world. In short, Kim Kardashian et al., you might have been on Barbara Walter’s ’18 Most Fascinating People of the Year’ interview list (simply because Walter’s must have been dumbfounded at your omnipresence) but you certainly didn’t change the world.
This was a year of protests, and it didn’t matter where you lived: from Egypt to Tunisia to Britain to the anti-demonstrating U.S. of A., there was practically no place on Earth (or, save Antarctica, at least no continent on Earth, unless the penguins were protesting global warming) that didn’t feel the mighty pounding footsteps of the angry protester, that didn’t hear their battle cries or witness their heartfelt signs. The year started out with Tunisia and Egypt, and while the battle flare may have flamed out in certain movements, others are still going strong.
A good way to measure Time’s choice is to consider this: imagine the past year without the millions of protesters. When one does this, the realization that Time made a proper choice stands blazingly clear. The runner-ups paled in comparison (Kate Middleton? Did she change anything, except maybe the hearts of those hopeless girls who dreamed of marrying Prince William?) Past Time choices likewise pale in comparison of influence to The Protester. Mark Zuckerburg of Facebook? Sure, his website is ingrained in the consciousness of every American with a computer and a dose of narcissism, but I don’t think the poor people in Ethiopia or Bolivia or India were much affected by the creation of Facebook. Ben Bernanke? It’s more like what he didn’t do then what he did do that matters. George Bush? Okay, maybe he did deserve to win ‘Person of the Year’ because he certainly had an influence on the world (albeit a bad one), but I don’t get why they had to choose him in 2000 simply because he was elected.Simply being elected president doesn’t mean that you have changed the world. Give them time…
Think about 2011 without all the protests. Where would the world be? World leaders Muammar Ghaddhafi, Ben-Ali and Hosni Mubarak would still be sitting on their thrones and not dead, exiled or imprisoned as they currently are. Syria would not have lost thousands of it’s citizens. The Middle East would not be embroiled in turmoil and economic stagnation. Greece would suffer it’s austerity packages in silence. Britain wouldn’t have suffered a weird (and in my opinion, shameful) looting and an exercise in mob mentality. Western-style governments and their banker allies everywhere would sit smug and fattened in the knowledge that their corruption would continue unnoticed. Perhaps what changed most of all was not just individual leaders, or styles of government, but the collective opinions of people themselves. The protesters were able to get everyone, whether you hailed from Madrid or Washington, D.C. or Sidi Bouzi thinking about their countries and their situations.
Sure, the Occupy Wall Street movement, and its corresponding sit-ins throughout the USA and Europe, might have been lacking in cohesion and leadership, and they might have not gained power yet from the 1% or eliminated their college debts or gained equality (although at least the war in Iraq is finished!) but they did gain something. People listened–to people who weren’t leaders. People listened to a collective opinion that was constantly being shaped, a collective opinion that was neither black nor white nor rich (okay, super-rich) nor poor. In short, people might have gainedsome hope in 2011: hope that they themselves had the power in their hands to make their depressing problems come true and their dreams once again become a reality.
Whoever you are, wherever you live, and whatever you believe, you were quite probably affected directly or by the ripple effects of the protests. I’m interested to see what this ‘Person of the Year’ does in 2012!*
*As long as people remain calm and peaceful, I’ll applaud you. If you keep storming cabinet buildings and throwing rocks, and causing mayhem just for the sake of causing mayhem, I will definitely be protesting YOUR bad behavior. Let’s behave like rational, sane human beings and not violent animals, people!