Proposed: Person of the Year: Mohamed Bouazizi

14Oct11

I would bet that Time magazine will already have plans for this.  But in case they don’t, it seems the person of the year must be Mohamed Bouazizi, the fruit seller in Tunisia who set himself on fire last December and died on January 4, 2011.

Bouazizi, age 26 at death, was protesting bureaucratic harassment and the confiscation of his goods.  Five thousand people marched in his funeral procession, many chanting a vow to avenge him.

Bouazizi’s self-immolation is credited as starting the revolution in Tunisia.  That revolution succeeded in forcing Tunisia’s rigged president to step down, thus encouraging a successful revolution in Egypt and protests elsewhere.

That movement, known as the Arab Spring, seems to have been an influence behind the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations that began in New York and have since spread to dozens of other cities.  It is not presently clear how broad or sustained those demonstrations will be, or what ultimate influence they will have.

One thing is clear, however.  Mohamed Bouazizi, giving his life in desperate protest, changed the world.  The most important aspect of that change has been that, after a very long hiatus in the U.S. and elsewhere, ordinary people have rediscovered that, like him, they can do something to change society.  For that, I would like to thank him.

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