By William Walker.
Time Magazine has unveiled its ‘person of the year’ as The Protester. Since 1927, the weekly publication has annually declared who it believes has made the biggest impact on the world over the last twelve months, and with such endemic global dissent, no one can deny the relevance of an image that has dominated lives and re-shaped governments.
The iconic image fought off a host of contenders as wide-ranging as Chinese dissident Ai Weiwei and newly-wed royal Kate Middleton. Managing editor Richard Stengel explained the magazine’s decision, lauding “the men and women around the world, particularly in the Middle East, who toppled governments, who brought democracy and dignity to people who hadn’t had it before”.
Beginning in Tunisia in January both sporadic and sustained protests followed in most parts of the world; in Egypt, the Middle East, South America, Europe and the US, and most recently Russia and China. Whether their raison d’être was for political change, an escape from economic stagnation or for increased civil rights, it is apparent that this year has seen division and its resulting hostility on a truly global scale.
Protest is, of course, nothing new, yet 2011 has seen an undeniable prevalence of disaffection and disillusionment in states that many believe must change to adapt to an ever-changing world. It is perhaps this dissatisfaction, rather than the protests themselves, that explains why such an image is so compelling to so many of us. As we step into 2012 provided these icons continue to resonate we will see no end to protesters like the one Time proudly displays.