Time Magazine has an annual award called person of the year, formerly known as man of the year. This is an honor they bestow on a person, group, idea or object, and the main criteria is how much the candidate has influenced events during the year.
This may have started as a blunder, but I wonder if Time has continued making bad decisions. Man of the year started in 1927 after Time failed to have a cover photo in connection with Charles Lindbergh’s historical flight across the Atlantic. They attempted to rectify that by making him the man of the year in 1927. When I browse through the list of all winners I wonder what is best, name some despicable person if that is correct according to the criteria, or choose someone more pleasing to us. I’m not seeing Albert Schweitzer or Albert Einstein for starters, and I’m not convinced that they meant less while they were active than American middle in 1969, Corazon Aquino in 1986, Earth in 1988 , Rudolph Giuliani in 2001, Bono and Bill/Melinda Gates in 2005, you in 2006, and Ebola fighters in 2014. Are they running out of options?
There’s been a few that appear to have been very controversial, but perhaps that’s just how we see it today. Adolf Hitler was picked in 1938 and Josef Stalin in 1939 and 1942. They may have thought differently back then, or perhaps it was the distance to Europe that made Stalin more acceptable halfway through the war. Maybe they wanted to avoid a similar situation in 2001 when Rudolph Giuliani was picked, but if we go by the criteria that the winner has to be someone that has had the most influence during the year, for bad or for worse, Osama Bin Laden seems to be a more likely choice for 2001. This is after all not a popularity contest, but maybe it should be. It would probably have put Time out of business if they had named the most hated terrorist fourteen years ago.
Time announced yesterday that Angela Merkel was this year’s person of the year. I can understand it in a way because media likes a Cinderella story, and Angela Merkel certainly qualities.
She was born in East Germany as the daughter of a Lutheran priest. I don’t know anything about her life before the wall came down, but I can imagine what kind of status a Christian family in a strict communist state, such as DDR, had. She moved fast and made instant success in the united Germany, and won a seat in Bundestag already in 1990. She has been the head of state for ten years now, which has been a period with many challenges. So I can understand Time’s decision, but I still have a feeling this came too soon. Sort of like when Norway, although the Nobel Committee is supposedly independent of the government, kissed up to Barack Obama by giving him the peace price before he had accomplished anything. I can’t see that his actions since has confirmed that the committee made the right choice. Incidentally, there were rumours that the Nobel price caused a bit of irritation in the White House because PM Stoltenberg had been quite desperate for an invitation to Washington. Some people in the administration felt that this was a way to force Obama to Oslo.
I suspect that Time picked Angela Merkel because the other candidates probably wouldn’t be good for business. The rest of the shortlist consisted of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (leader of ISIS), Hassan Rouhani (Iranian president), Donald Trump, Black Lives Matter (civil rights organization), Travis Kalanick (co founder of Uber) and Caitlyn Jenner.
The first two on the list make sense. I suspect that Time felt they couldn’t leave them out, but never intended to consider them. Angela Merkel has been very visible in the news this year, like Obama has, but not necessarily for doing a great job. She may have, but it’s too early to tell how the economy and the refugees are going to influence Europe. As for the refugees, they haven’t come to Europe yet. That is to say, the most resourceful ones, those that can get to Northern Europe on their own, have overwhelmed most countries in the EU. What happens when the real refugees, those that are trapped inside Syria or refugee camps, come? That’s when Angela Merkel can make a difference.
Maybe it’s just as well to turn this into a popularity contest because whether we like it or not, the truth is that the negative forces in the world often have a deeper impact than those we want. When the Time’s readers voted in a poll Bernie Sanders won by a solid margin, but he didn’t even make the short list. He may be what many Americans want, but the truth is that what happens in Syria has changed America more than I believe Bernie Sanders will ever be allowed to, but maybe I’m being too pessimistic.
He might be happy about being left out. I am not sure I’d like to be on a list that has praised the worst war criminals in history.