When I was a wee lad, I had a Mickey Mouse storybook, in which Mickey and Donald and Goofy were on a sightseeing vacation by train. Along with them were maybe a dozen “Mouseketeers”, smiling children wearing those mouse ear beanie hats (why adults would send their children on a trip supervised by a three foot talking rodent is a good question. Maybe they didn’t read the brochure thoroughly enough). One of these Mouseketeers was depicted as a gray silhouette with a mouse-ear hat, who I believe they referred to as the Mystery Mousekeeter. A surreal touch for a kid’s book.
Anyhow, at the end of the train trip, on the final page of the book, they revealed a grand secret: the Mystery Mouseketeer was You, The Reader Of The Book! You were on the trip with Mickey and friends the whole time! I’m pretty sure I didn’t buy it at the time. I wasn’t a gray blob in a hat, and I’d never ridden on a train before, so obviously I couldn’t have gone on this trip with Mickey. But they said that it was me, so, well, whatever.
Now, apparently, The Mystery Mouseketeer is the 2006 Time Magazine Person of the Year:
No, seriously. The “Person of the Year” is all 6 billion people on planet Earth. Way to go, team.
Of course, there is no reason to have a “Person of the Year” for a newsmagazine, except as a marketing gimmick. As it’s become a yearly tradition, this issue will get a huge amount of free publicity as other news outlets cover the “story”, and then people can debate the decision. But by their own rules, this is pathetic. They can’t narrow down the “person” at least a little? Not to say that Time hasn’t cheated in the past. In 1966, it was people “Twenty-five and under”. In 2003, it was “the American soldier”. In 1982, it was “the computer”. I think that in 2007, Time should break more new ground. I propose that the next Person of the Year should be “this little dog we saw the other day” or “things that are green”.
That being said, I understand the point they’re trying to make. If you read their article, what they’re really saying is that “user-generated content” (like blogs, homemade videos on YouTube, MySpace pages, etc.) coupled with corporate and non-profit internet tools to share that content, had a big impact on society this year. Which is pretty accurate, but why you’d want to shoehorn that trend into “person” is beyond me.
And I suppose I exaggerate when I say that Planet Earth is Time’s choice for this year. Obviously, they only mean the people involved in this home-made, internet-distributed media. It is my understanding that only about 1/6 of the Earth’s population has internet access, and of that group, surely a much smaller group uses MySpace and YouTube and the rest. It’s also my understanding that about 1.1 billion people try to survive on less than a dollar a day. I imagine those folks don’t check their MySpace profiles very often.
That’s one of my ever-present concerns, that we Americans have a tendency to think that “people” or “the world” or “everyone” means folks like us, living exceptionally privileged lives, relatively speaking. Our comforts often come at the direct expense of people who are not us (sweatshops, blood diamonds, oil dictatorships). And while a common liberal dream seems to be the elevation of everyone to the comfort level of the American middle class, I doubt that’s possible. I fear that even with future leaps in technology and scientific discovery, that the goal of ending global poverty would only come with a huge decrease in the standard of living enjoyed by the West. And my even greater fear is that “You”, the millions referred to by Time magazine, would really rather let billions suffer, and would fight tooth and nail, to maintain their lifestyles.
Hmm, I started this post with Mickey Mouse cartoons, and ended with international class war. Guess that’s how my mind works.
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