The last (and only previous) time I referred to TIME, the magazine, was in a review of their article on the possible non-existence of hell, which they teased on the cover and then didn’t really address. This time I think TIME hit one out of the park. They chose a concept as “Person of the Year” – The PROTESTER.
As soon as I saw the cover, I got a tingly, Zeitgeistey feeling. I understood immediately that people who dislike the Occupy movement and saw this cover would begin squealing like teapots at the boiling point. Then I read the article itself, and, unlike the previous wimp-out, which focused on controversy over a book by Christian pastor Rob Bell, found an informative, broad perspective on the history of protest movements from 1848 to the present. Both the Tea Party and OWS are included, but they aren’t the focus of the article. Sorry, you teapots.
The majority of the eight-page cover article re-tells the recent events that began in Tunisia, and that have now gone past Tahrir Square into Russia. The 2007 “Person of the Year”, Vladimir Putin, is looking likely to be brought down by the 2011 “Person of the Year”. A clear position is taken arguing that Occupy actions in western nations are different in form and goals, but that the energy and courage of middle easterners has inspired the jaded, apathetic population here toward direct action of a kind not seen in decades. The Arabs have helped us remember how to participate in democracy.
When thinking about the topic, I realized part of why I instinctively see the Occupy movement as a positive trend. Though tech and social media are employed to communicate and organize, street protesting is done in person, face-to-face. There’s an incredible amplification of energy that happens automatically by putting people in close proximity to each other who have anything even vaguely in common. It’s the opposite of what happens to our life force when all of us are shut safely up in our separate domiciles, dissipated and dissolved by our toys and trinkets. We are so much easier to control and influence at home and at work.
In other countries, the ones where the cops kill people for protesting, those in the streets don’t all share the same vision of what they think should happen after the dictators are deposed. They don’t all follow specific leaders, use the same slogans or provide sound bites easy to edit into a broadcast. What they have in common is a shared knowledge of what they don’t want; business as usual, run by the same elites in perpetuity.
Therefore, that model is valid here too in regards to our street protesters. They don’t all have to have the same specific goals. They don’t need to follow a leader. All they have to be is there, together, because for a dozen different reasons they feel lied to and cheated. They have gathered to object to a rigged game; mega-hyper-capitalism, and the deceits perpetrated by governments too heavily influenced by corporate financial support to act consistently in the interest of the general populace. Wherever the protesters choose to gather in future, I want them there to disrupt “business as usual” in my name as well as theirs.
I appreciate the irony in having TIME, a pillar of corporate media, choose a topic I would have expected to show up on the cover of Mother Jones. I take it as clear evidence that this Occupy thing is unlikely to disappear any time soon. It also pleases me to see that what goes on in my country is not entirely unique. It’s part of something much bigger, a rising and falling cycle that keeps happening over the centuries in different places. Maybe Capitalism is devolving into Feudalism, with the same set of heroes and villains, just wearing new costumes. If true, I would still rather be a guildsman and scribe than a prince.
11 responses to “Hot Button Home Run”
It’s really amazing what is taking place in the Middle East, and to think of how it’s taking place and by who… The younger generation who knows how to employ Facebook and Twitter to their benefit, and then have this great gathering… Usually great anyway, as there have been some issues. I haven’t had a chance to really curl up with the article and read it, but I’ve been looking forward to it and am glad you mentioned it. I think a lot of people will look at it and think it’s highlighting only the Occupy movements, which aren’t nearly as impressive as those protestors off in the Middle East.
I agree with you on all points, Sarah. It was so clever of them to name and illustrate the choice on the cover, to get those who agree excited AND get those who disagree upset – and then give real substance to the issue inside. It is an artist’s conception, not a photograph, and it is pretty obvious that it’s an ambiguous NON-American protester on the cover, but every article I have read in objection was reacting to the choice without having read the piece.
Well done, Mikey. I appreciate how you zeroed in on the difference between ‘relating’ virtually (yet ‘actually’ alone) and gathering publicly. I don’t protest, because I find that the anger that usually finds its way into such gatherings is not a healthy environment for me, but I do like communal celebrations for the added energy you mentioned, of people in intimacy with each other. Sometimes I don’t like it, too, for the same reasons.
I’m too sensitive to hang out in crowds, myself. But if unarmed crowds can bring down dictators elsewhere, why not here? It’s like the organized crime thing, the banksters not wanting too much public attention focused on them because it’s “bad for business”. There’s anger, because too many have been deceived, but I share your concern about the dangers of herd mentality. Thanks, Matt.
I understand the reason for the anger and I’m not even saying it is not warranted, it’s just that when I indulge anger for any reason — even righteous anger on behalf of innocence — it removes me from the space of gratitude that in fact keeps me alive. I can’t afford anger very easily, is what I’m saying, and someone else’s anger over being in the 99 instead of the 1 doesn’t seem like something I want rubbing off on me, so I stay home. If I remain grateful, however, I am more likely to be available to compassion for people who need something I can share, no matter what their percentage number is. Anger is a promethean fire and I’ve shot myself with that gun before…to mix metaphors slightly.
Me too. The power of passive resistance is the greatest, hard as it is to achieve. Nothing transforms like inner (and outer) peace.
Interesting. And didn’t this magazine put a mirror on its front cover a few years ago as its ‘person of the year’ thing? If I didn’t just make that up, it strikes me as chiming very much with this year’s choice.
…I just googled it, I didn’t make it up: it was 2006, and related to the ‘new digital democracy’. I found this:
It’s about the many wresting power from the few and helping one another for nothing and how that will not only change the world, but also change the way the world changes,” said Mr Grossman, Time’s technology writer and book critic.
My, my, wasn’t he a prescient extrapolator? I don’t remember seeing that issue, so I am very glad you brought it up. Thank you, Deborah.
I will always support people who dare to rise up in an effort to confront injustice, greed built on the poverty of others, rampant dictators who hoard wealth and abuse power, authorities who rule by fear, and for principles that are beneficial for all people and not just a select few (apartheid springs to mind).
Sometimes it can be done without bloodshed, but sadly more often some will need to pay the ultimate sacrifice to gain the freedom and justice they seek, yes there are often a few “professional troublemakers” who are not true to the plot and who are out to discredit the many who want peaceful change. but the fact that many around the world ARE stepping forward to say “no” to “business as usual” will hopefully send a message that this world is as much about what we will tolerate and will make it into, as it is about the societies we are born into and inherit.
Wonderful topic… Bravo !
Thank you, Kiwi. There are so many similarities between Rome in the 3rd Century and the USA as it is now. The declining periods of empires are also times when optimism, renewed energy, and important changes are brought in by groups outside the power elite. I’m getting that “anything is possible” feeling that I had as a teen 40-some years ago. In between that period and now, I focused on that as a personal, individual experience, part of the way young people feel when adulthood is new. Now I’m beginning to pay more attention to historical-cultural context. The times we live in affect us, just as the places and situations do.