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Friday, January 06, 2006

What year? (Part 2 of 2) 

If you haven't read the intro to this post, please start there and then come back. We'll wait for you...

OK, so if you still haven't read it, here's the quick and dirty version: back in the late eighties, around the time Jordan was dominating the NBA and George W's father was humiliating Dukakis, two men rose to the top of their game and became icons in their respective fields - Bono of the rock band U2 and Bill Gates of the software giant Microsoft. Either one would have been a respectable choice for Time's Man of the Year honors back in the day.

Fast forward to 2005 with me.

2005 saw the deaths of the guy who played Mr. Miyagi, the man responsible for Marilyn Monroe's conversion to Judaism (oh, and author of Death of a Salesman), the guy who developed the electronic synthesizer, the woman who played Mrs. Robinson, the King of Saudi Arabia, the guy who beamed everyone up on Star Trek, the Pope, the guy who invented Valium, the woman who turned sitting on a bus into an entire civil rights movement, the guy who founded Amnesty International, and Johnny Carson. While the world was gripped with stories of the Gulf hurricanes, the Indian Ocean tsunami, the Pakistani earthquake, the Terri Schiavo case, the papal transition, the new Supreme Court nominees, the Iraqi elections, or the Israeli exodus, why is Time magazine focusing on these two?

U2 did not release an album this year. (I will grant that their How To Dismantle an Atomic Bomb peaked the charts in December 2004 and was still a hot commodity when 2005 opened.) Microsoft did not have any major new software releases or court cases this year. They were selected (along with Bill's wife) as the "People of the Year" for their philanthropic endeavors, most notably the money they have funneled to Africa. I'm not suggesting that Africa is not in need of aid, or that charitable giving is not a noble cause, but I do think that (A) it was not well-spent and (B) it does not qualify one for "person of the year" status. In the final analysis, I think we will find that money sent to Africa does absolutely nothing to solve the problems they face, and may make matters worse.

How did they get in the position they are in? The continent of Africa, sadly, has a long history of many corrupt leaders who take advantage of the people they govern. They have entered a spiral of poor education, poor infrastructure, poor health, poor agriculture, and so the list goes. What message do we send to those leaders when we forgive their debt? "You can continue to neglect the needs of your people and get yourselves fat, drunk and happy on our dime."

I contend that the people who are really making a difference in the world condition are not the ones convincing rest of us to give money and forgive debt but are the ones who are standing up to tyranny and fighting for fair and equitable government. I give 2005's Person of the Year to the proud purple-fingered Iraqi voter.

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