Friday, December 16, 2005

Person of the Year

It’s that time of year again.
While many of us will be obsessing about last minute shopping, politics and/or the NFL, Time Magazine will attempt to distract us by announcing their choice for 2005 Person of the Year.

TIME's Person of the Year is the person or persons who most affected the news and our lives, for good or for ill, and embodied what was important about the year.

Before continuing, I feel compelled to disclaim loudly that honours such as this are, at worst, a way to generate interest in and sell magazines, and at best an arbitrary choice constrained by arbitrary ground rules.
However since Time has been doing this since 1927 (they picked Charles Lindburgh that year for his aviation achievements) it has garnered some pop culture value on the basis of longevity alone.
A stroll through the archives can be fun from a historical perspective, too. Unfortunately they don't let you get too far into it without a subscription.

I must also say that I haven’t yet forgiven them for their choice in 2001. Giuliani may have done wonderful things but he only reacted to events. The person(s) who caused the events should have been named but I suppose it would have been politically inexpedient to do so.

Okay, so, for 2005:

George Bush is always a candidate, but they picked him last year.

Stories about the war in Iraq have provided a steady stream of misery but there was no one overwhelming event or personality.
Same with American politics although maybe an argument could be made for Senator John McCain, with his anti-torture legislation. Still, that doesn’t affect the lives of most citizens.

Politics in the rest of the world? Ha.
This is an American publication.
I suppose the election of a woman Chancellor in Germany, or the changing of the guard of the Palestinian Authority, or the upheavals in Israeli politics (including the Gaza pullout) might be worthy of consideration, but again, those don’t directly affect many lives in the U.S.

Sports?
There’s always Lance Armstrong. He certainly serves as inspiration but he’s still under a cloud of doping suspicion.

Pop Culture?
Maybe some entertainers who have (in a good way) taken advantage of their wealth and fame to try to make a difference in the world. Angelina Jolie, Bono, and Bob Geldof spring to mind.

It’s also tempting to consider people who have died in the calendar year, the most obvious of those being Pope John Paul II. I’d have to take exception with that kind of thinking because I believe those people should be honoured in the year of their greatest achievements or in some other manner. The fact of their passing isn’t what changed lives, but the fact of their living.

Ditto for Terry Schiavo. The facts surrounding her story opened up a huge debate on the nature of life and death. Can’t get more basic than that, but she herself didn’t really DO anything.

If it were totally up to me, I think I’d lean towards Chuck Cadman. The image of Chuck standing in the House of Commons, dying of cancer (he passed away less than two months later), rebelliously refusing to go along with the opposition crowd and dump the government, is an inspiration to me as a Canadian.

The poor man got up from his sick bed, travelled from B.C. to Ottawa, had to be interviewed from a bubble-chamber type of thing lest he be exposed to germs that his system could not resist, all to do what he felt was the right thing.

It may not have changed much in the long run – we ARE having our election some months later – but it speaks volumes about principle, dedication, and sacrifice.

So, who most affected the news and our lives, for good or for ill, and embodied what was important about the year?

My opinion is, the planet itself.
Mother Nature, God, or however you want to personify it.
The biggest stories of the year have been related to natural disasters, earthquakes, the tsunami, the hurricane season. They can’t all be blamed on global warming (tempting as it is) but the coming together of so many catastrophes in one calendar year is probably the biggest story, affecting the most people.

So, let's see if Time will redeem itself for 2001 by agreeing with me this time.