`The Protester` is Time`s Person of the Year
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Last Updated: Thursday, December 15, 2011, 00:36
New York: 'The Protester' is the Time's 2011 Person of the Year, as the magazine honoured those who stood up for common people, from India's anti-graft crusader Anna Hazare to Tunisia's street vendor Mohammed Bouazizi, who set himself on fire sparking the Arab Spring.

The US magazine said the revolution began in Tunisia, "where the dictator's power grabbing and high living crossed a line of shamelessness, and a commonplace bit of government callousness against an ordinary citizen a 26-year-old street vendor named Mohamed Bouazizi became the final straw."

Last year, the Time picked Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, whose competitors included another 21st century communications guru, WikiLeaks maestro Julian Assange.

Accompanying the Time report is a photo essay of profiles of over 30 ordinary citizens who did not give up in the face of death and torture and continued to fight tyrannical regimes, corruption, inequality and injustice all over the world.

Among the pictures is a close-up profile of a smiling and Gandhi-cap wearing Hazare and one in which he is sitting cross-legged. Its caption reads "anti-corruption crusader in India."

"When God wants to bring in change, he needs a vehicle of change, and I became that vehicle," Hazare is quoted as saying. Among the other photos is that of Ahmed Harara, a Cairo dentist who was blinded by rubber bullets during clashes in January, protesters from the Occupy Wall Street movement, Egyptian protesters, leading Tunisian feminist Professor Dalenda Largueche, Greek protest dog Loukanikos as well as that of a clenched fist.

Time termed as "remarkable" the common cause of the protests. "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."

It said in Egypt the incitements were a "preposterously fraudulent" 2010 national election and the common act of "unforgivable" brutality by security agents. In the US, three acute and overlapping money crises tanked economy, systemic financial recklessness, gigantic public debt along with ongoing revelations of double dealing by banks and the refusal of Congress to consider even slightly higher taxes on the very highest incomes "mobilized Occupy Wall Street and its millions of supporters."

In Russia it was the realization that "another six (or 12) years of Vladimir Putin might not lead to greater prosperity and democratic normality."

Time said people used the power of the internet, mobilising support for their cause though social networking sites Facebook and Twitter.

Protesters "used the Internet to find one another and take to the streets to insist on fairness and (in the Arab world) freedom."

"They were all unhappy, they wanted change and they wanted better life," Time said. "Everybody is out there to unite their power for one common cause, one common expression to get a better life".

From Sidi Bouzid, Alexandria, Cairo to Madrid, Athens, London, Mexico, India and Chile, "citizens mobilized against crime and corruption; the loathing and anger at governments and their cronies became uncontainable and fed on itself," it said.

The shared honour for protesters beat the traditional individual contenders, who included Admiral William McRaven, commander of the US mission to kill al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden.

"There's this contagion of protest," managing editor Richard Stengel said on NBC television. "These are folks who are changing history already and they will change history in the future."

The list centered on heavyweight political figures such as McRaven, Chinese dissident Ai Weiwei, and influential Republican Congressman Paul Ryan.

There were also an emotional nod for Kate Middleton, who was credited for putting a spring back in the British monarchy's step with her wedding to Prince William.

Linked by secure video from Jalalabad to the White House, McRaven had briefed President Barack Obama in real time as the Navy Seal team descended upon bin Laden's massive compound in Pakistan's Abbottabad town and over 40 minutes later flew out carrying the Al-Qaeda leader's corpse.

"He was almost like the voice of Walter Cronkite, completely calm," says Michael Leiter, who was present with Obama as director of the National Counter terrorism Center, of McRaven.

Another runner up is Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton, who "is bigger box office than the rest of her in-laws combined".

"In marrying the second in the line of succession, the newly minted princess has accepted a mission riven with apparent contradictions.

She's expected to uphold tradition while bringing modernity to the monarchy, and to reinforce a system based on birthright while proving that a commoner can cut it as a royal."


First Published: Thursday, December 15, 2011, 00:21

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