19 December 2006

Man Of The Year

Time magazine has named its Person of the year for 2006. It's you. Yes, it's you, me and everybody else who's generating and consuming content on the Internet (I am including myself in the list by virtue of this blog, humble though the effort may be). The magazine argues that Web 2.0 is fundamentally changing our world in many ways, and that the common man is at the centre of this revolution.

Do I agree with this choice? I guess so. It is true that the Internet has grown and changed substantially over the last couple of years, affecting our lives in ways we take for granted. And the net is now truly democratic, putting power in the hands of the people - as against governments or corporates.

At the same time, I would argue that this is a convenient choice for the editors of Time. It suited their purpose to look at a 'trend' and name the person at the centre of this trend (in this case, you) as Person of the year. Why? Because if they had followed the usual, and expected, process of picking the man who had the most impact in the year (for better or worse) and who created the most news, then it would have been Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Don't agree? Tell me - which was the most happening part of the world this year? Which region was/is the most critical to the world (in key areas like energy and security)? West Asia, obviously. And which country dominated this region in 2006? Iran. Consider this:
1. Iraq's Shia-dominated government is supported by Iran. More importantly, Iran is also supporting the Shia insurgents, who (along with others) have brought the world's sole superpower to its knees.
2. Iran is supporting Hezbollah, who humbled the Israeli army (the most powerful one in the region) in the Lebanon war.
3. All efforts to halt Iran's nuclear weapons program have come to naught. Iran thumbed its nose at the US, the EU, the UN, the IAEA and got away with it. It might take them another 10-15 years, but they will get the bomb.
In sum, Iran is gradually emerging as the most powerful player in the region. It is also drawing a 'Shia crescent' (with Syria and Hezbollah) through the region, giving the jitters to not just Israel and US, but also the Arab/Sunni states.

And who was the man leading this 'rogue nation'? Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. True, he is not the most powerful man in his country. That title belongs to the Grand Ayatollah Khamenei. Some say Ahmadinejad is just a front for the mullahs who rule Iran. Perhaps. But nobody will deny that, to the world, he is the face of his country. He has been in world headlines all this year with antics like denying the Holocaust and writing a letter to Bush (asking all Americans to convert to Islam, of course).

Not sure how the Americans would have taken it if an enemy of the US had been named as Person of the year. So Time decided to play it safe. This is the not the first time they have done so. The most infamous example was in 2001 when they named Rudolph Giuliani, instead of Osama bin Laden. If ever there was a slam dunk for Man of the year, this was the year, and this was the man. But political correctness triumphed over intellectual honesty.

PS: Ahmadinejad is a civil engineer (with a PhD). I tell you, we engineers rock! ;-)


kiran said...

What abt 'man' of the year in India, or atleast Indian? I read an article in Time about L Mittal - he showed some major balls to do what he did. What says?

Psomax said...

For driving 27 more nails into the coffin of merit, for adding fuel to the fire of caste politics, and for taking the country several steps backward - I vote for Arjun Singh as India's Man of the Year 2006.