2011’s Person Of The Year: Mohamed Bouazizi
He didn’t know he would set himself on fire. He didn’t know he would spark revolt from Tunis to Moscow. He didn’t know dictators who never heard of him would curse his name before their own downfall.
All Mohamed Bouazizi knew when he woke up that morning was this: he had to sell fruit. Feed the family. Save up for that pick-up truck they always wanted.
He started early. A little after 8. He got the catcalls, the high fives. The early morning serenades for the Fruit Vendor Guy. Mohamed wasn’t rich. But he had lots of friends in low places. He gave the poorest families apples when he could and plums of wisdom when he couldn’t.
The Article: Burmese Days by Shashi Tharoor in Al Jazeera.
The Text: US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s recent visit to Myanmar, noted largely for a memorable photo opportunity with a wan but smiling Aung San Suu Kyi, signalled a significant change in the geopolitics surrounding a land that has faced decades of isolation, sanctions and widespread condemnation for its human-rights violations.
Twenty-one years ago, after Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) swept a general election, the results were annulled, the party’s leaders and workers were incarcerated or exiled, and two decades of ruthless – and remarkably opaque – military rule followed. This year has witnessed political opening, the release of several prominent political prisoners, and evidence of self-assertion by the nominally civilian government (headed by a former general, Thien Sein). Suu Kyi’s announcement of her intention to contest a by-election to the new parliament offers a glimmer of hope that democrats could use the fledgling political process to create something resembling genuine representative government.
Myanmar’s military rulers are cynically hoping to use Suu Kyi’s participation in the parliamentary process to bolster the illusion of freedom while continuing to exercise real control. But such exercises in “managed democratisation” – in places as different as Iran, Indonesia and the Soviet Union – have often surprised their would-be manipulators. It is clearly in the interests of both India and the United States to seize this opportunity. While China has always been much more comfortable dealing with a military regime, India’s embrace of the junta has been more reluctant, based on reasons of geography rather than shared ideals.
Guarded optimism for Myanmar reforms