Each year, TIME Magazine- now also a largely successful web entity- names one notable person who has, “for better or worse,” been most influential on the events of that year.
Decades past have seen revered modern heros such as Albert Einstein, Winston Churchill and Martin Luther King, Jr. take the title- while in other years, villains of the 20th century such as Hitler or Stalin’s negative impact on world events made them the person of ‘their’ years. Recent issues have seen more ephemeral choices, such as 2006’s “You”- selected for the prominence of user-generated content on the web on sites like Wikipedia and MySpace. 2011 has turned out to be another year during which a more nebulous entity was chosen after a year of worldwide revolt largely sparked by social media- “The Protester.”
In a lengthy profile of The Protester, TIME explains first why protest has become relevant again after decades, revived in the internet era. The mag says:
Credit was easy, complacency and apathy were rife, and street protests looked like pointless emotional sideshows — obsolete, quaint, the equivalent of cavalry to mid-20th-century war. The rare large demonstrations in the rich world seemed ineffectual and irrelevant.
TIME comments on a shared profile “The Protester” tends to have:
It’s remarkable how much the protest vanguards share. Everywhere they are disproportionately young, middle class and educated. Almost all the protests this year began as independent affairs, without much encouragement from or endorsement by existing political parties or opposition bigwigs. All over the world, the protesters of 2011 share a belief that their countries’ political systems and economies have grown dysfunctional and corrupt — sham democracies rigged to favor the rich and powerful and prevent significant change. They are fervent small-d democrats. Two decades after the final failure and abandonment of communism, they believe they’re experiencing the failure of hell-bent megascaled crony hypercapitalism and pine for some third way, a new social contract.
During the bubble years, perhaps, there was enough money trickling down to keep them happyish, but now the unending financial crisis and economic stagnation make them feel like suckers. But this year, instead of plugging in the headphones, entering an Internet-induced fugue state and quietly giving in to hopelessness, they used the Internet to find one another and take to the streets to insist on fairness and (in the Arab world) freedom.
Do you think The Protester is the most influential person of 2011? Do you agree with TIME?