For Time‘s annual “Person of the Year” issue, they’ve chosen “The Protester.” The Awl announces, “Okay, yay, we won!” The spread features simple portraits of and interviews with protesters from around the world — Tunisia, Egypt, Greece, Spain, and right here in the U.S.
The attached cover story and introduction try to tie all the protests in different places in 2011 into a neat little bow:
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.
The descriptors get possibly even more florid a few grafs down:
It was, in other words, unlike anything in any of our lifetimes, probably unlike any year since 1848, when one street protest in Paris blossomed into a three-day revolution that turned a monarchy into a republican democracy and then — within weeks, thanks in part to new technologies (telegraphy, railroads, rotary printing presses) — inspired an unstoppable cascade of protest and insurrection in Munich, Berlin, Vienna, Milan, Venice and dozens of other places across Europe, as well as a huge peaceful demonstration of democratic solidarity in New York that marched down Broadway and occupied a public park a few blocks north of Wall Street. How perfect that the German word Zeitgeist was transplanted into English in that unprecedented, uncanny year of insurrection.
Time’s series of protester interviews include one with Chelsea Elliott, the pepper-spray victim with whom we did an interview back in September. She tells them, “I feel this is an amazing time to be alive in America — at this point we actually have the opportunity for change, in this moment of destruction.”
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on December 14, 2011