Rebel of the Week: The ProtesterDecember 14th, 2011
Time Magazine has selected “The Protester” as its Person of the Year for 2011 because they are “redefining people power” throughout the world, citing the protests of the Arab Spring and the Occupy Wall Street protests in the United States as examples. Time writes:
“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.”
For daring to speak out, for using new technologies to coordinate their efforts, for boldly holding their ground in the face of police and military violence directed at them, for pointing out the corruption and inequality inherent in our present global corporatist hegemony, we also honor “The Protester” as this week’s rebel. I would also like to point out, however, that Time Magazine is a little late to the game.
Before the Arab Spring, there was a “Persian Spring” of sorts, the Mousavi “Green Revolution” that took place in Iran during the summer of 2009. Like this year’s protests, the Green Revolution featured non-violent activism by mostly young, well-educated, and disenfranchised citizens of Iran who believed that the presidential election had been stolen from reformer Mir-Hossein Mousavi. A little bit about Mousavi: He was 2009′s candidate of free speech, civil liberties, anti-corruption reforms, privatization, peaceful foreign policy, a free and private media, gender equality, and the disbandment of Iran’s “moral police” and radical nuclear program– a true revolutionary.
A few months earlier that same year, a protest movement broke out all over the United States called the Tea Party. It began as a rebuke to the bipartisan TARP bailout of Wall Street. Its members did not want a bailout of their own, as many Occupy protesters have called for in the form of student debt forgiveness. They simply wanted the government to stop bailing out wealthy, well-connected special interests. For centuries, protesters in streets have chanted “We want more!” It was truly revolutionary to see a movement of protesters saying “We want less!” We want less government, we want less partisanship, we want smaller bills and we want legislators to actually read them, we want smaller federal budgets– don’t give us more, just don’t take so much away!
Another remarkable thing about these protesters is that they were mostly middle aged. The protest movement in the United States, which has long been dominated by youth, was joined in 2009 by middle aged and even many older Americans– people with jobs, and families, and financial responsibilities. That so many non-racial minority members of this demographic turned out to stand in city squares during 2009 was a truly revolutionary development in the history of U.S. political activism. There had been nothing like it in recent American history.
“The Protester” didn’t, however, get any love in 2009. Time Magazine’s 2009 Person of the Year was Ben Bernanke.
That said, in honoring “The Protester” as this week’s rebel, it is important to remember the actions of all the many protesters over the last few years, Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street alike, as well as the Arab Spring, Green Revolution, Jasmine Revolution, the townhall protesters during the health care debate, the antiwar protesters of the last decade, and anyone who has had the courage to engage in the political process and peacefully make their voices heard.
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