Time magazine announced its “Person of the Year” today and “The Protester” wins out over all the other people that have greatly influenced this year. I understand what Time is doing; they are trying to go for a cross-cultural and globally resonating figure. I’m somewhat surprised that the “Person of the Year” title didn’t go to Danica May Camacho, the 7th billionth person in the world, or to the unemployed and displaced workers around the world.
2011 marked a year of turbulence both at home and abroad. According to the December 2, 2011 U.S. Department of Labor Statistics report, 13.3 million people are unemployed and 8.5 million are employed part-time or underemployed. Add the high unemployment to dissatisfaction with government systems both at home and abroad and surprise, you have a winning equation for “The Protester” to emerge.
The culmination of deteriorating events worldwide: irreversible climate change, the European debt crisis, battles over moral issues in the U.S., high unemployment rates, rising food costs and food shortages; it is no wonder that people took to the streets and social media to get their messages across. However, I have to ask, “Is protesting enough in the United States?” Oil, drug and food lobbyists give millions of dollars to politicians. Just tonight, Congress passed a $662 billion defense bill. Think of what the United States could do with $662 billion dollars! Rather than fortifying ourselves and acting out post-colonial desires, we used it to fix our country by rebuilding infrastructure working on more sustainable forms of energy, revamping education and healthcare, our country would become transformed. People would have pride in their country, not because of slogans like “We’re #1” plastered on foam hats imported from China, but because of self-satisfactory change. However, the government has different priorities for the despondent, depressed and angry nation.
I think it is going to take something BIG, bigger than #OWS to change what’s going on in the United States. I think that when reports come via iphones and Facebook and Twitter updates, something has gone awry, mainly the disconnect connection. Yes, the movement is social and we live in the age of social media. But, I wonder how much of the original message is getting out to the masses and what messages are isolating the protestors.
I find it very interesting that the protesters were removed from Zuccotti Park on November 15th, fifteen days before the annual Rockefeller Center Christmas tree lighting ceremony and right before the consumerist Christmas shopping season. It reminds of the ghost of Christmas past, trying to push off the oppressive chains, but is silenced by Christmas present(s). When I heard the news about the eviction, I was reminded of season five of The Wire which focused on the media. According to a scene in The Wire amongst some reporters at The Baltimore Sun, the basic notion of a troubling story at year’s end is to make it “disappear” before Christmas. As Augustus Haynes, City Editor for the Baltimore Sun says, “Our job is to report the news, not to manufacture it.” I feel like the media manufactures news. Especially in regards to sugar-coated stories, so pretty much 23 out of the 24 hour television news cycle. Believe me, there is plenty of news to cover, but I think it would scare the general public too much. The only news that is completely honest is the financial news, because let’s face it, numbers don’t lie.
What will happen in 2012? Well, besides the apocalypse? I mean, there is a presidential election, a broken economy, little job creation and morale is especially low, so in summation: The Apocalypse. In the next year, I think there will be a continued attempt to “bring back Americans to their core values” whatever that means. New catchphrases and hash tags on Twitter will arise. The cycle will go on and on, just as it has for the past 235 years. However, I am reminded of what Barak Obama said once, “Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” The Protesters heard the words and acted, they are the “change,” not the politician promising manufactured change, like a product you can purchase.
by Barbara Jacobson