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.