I want it, I want it, I want it (You can’t have it) – The Who
At the end of every year, Time Magazine graces its readers with their choice for “Person of the Year.” In previous years, this honor was bestowed upon truly divergent figures, from the noble and inspiring, down to the dastardly and the un-redeemably evil, indeed. Incredibly, in years past, Time has named such opposites on the spectrum as Ronald Reagan contrasted with the Ayatollah Khomeini, Pope John Paul II juxtaposed to der Fuehrer himself, Adolph Hitler; strange bedfellows, to say the least.
The “Person of the Year,” is chosen strictly by subjective means, most likely the
editors’ and publishers’ unscientific prerogative ruling the day. Ostensibly, the most influential person, group, or idea of the year is chosen, regardless of intentions, ennobling or brutal. Hence, the likes of the beatific Mother Teresa can comingle on the same list as the murderous Joseph Stalin.
For the calendar year of 2011, Time Magazine chose The Protester to adorn the cover of its “Person of the Year” issue. And The Protester is a solid if not obvious choice considering the specter of regime change occurring in Egypt and Libya, and other Middle-East nations--shaking off the old desert winter and boldly heading toward the Arab Spring.
Also, in the United States and the rest of the world, protesters gathered in urban metropolises to voice their displeasure with some vague and foggy notion of social
injustice. No one could quite put their finger on what exactly the Occupy people were protesting, not even said protesters. Regardless, their movement was real, engaging tens of thousands of people to lend their voices to the cause. This fling at perceived justice led to parties and crime; drugs, mayhem, and clashes with police. There is a razor sharp contrast between the Middle East uprisings and the suburban students treading their way toward Wall Street and Oakland and D.C., et al., in their Mephisto casuals. Intriguing, how the same conscious act in analogous circumstances offers up such disparate lessons and outcomes. What was a profound act in one instance is a hard act of recklessness in another; fury versus naïve folly.
But what both movements have in common is nothing less than a universal frustration driven by a systematic thwarting of ideals, goals and ambitions by faceless government agencies or other uncaring bureaucracies. At best, individuals are turned into numbers, a quota, an acceptable profit margin. And at the very worst, a stripping of said individuals of their dignity, their passions, and their free will.
Citizens of the world have played the surrogate punching bag, pummeled and punished by an aura of pure disdain; a disdain seen through weary eyes, heard through disbelieving ears, and felt pulsating through haggard and aching solar plexus. This force, this fingernail on chalkboard, this bloated beast can be condensed into a single savage word: Peggy.
Peggy, of course, is the person who mans the phones for USA Prime Credit, the fictional financial institution from the Discover Card commercials. Peggy works from a remote piece of land somewhere in the frozen tundra of the north. She fields customer queries over the phone, ideally to resolve their questions and complaints. Peggy, surprisingly masculine—even bearded—is a cross between the comic duo of Laurel and Hardy, and a Saturday Night Live sketch. At once, our ingénue combines the pure innocence of a Stan Laurel with the high-handedness of a cavalier Oliver Hardy. Add to the mix a dash of SNL absurdity and, voila, you have the unfathomable Peggy.
You inform Peggy that you have been waiting for 15 minutes for someone to pick up the phone and she tells you that you are “tenacious like bull. I like!”…then hangs up on you. Or the gentleman who complains of five charges on his USA Prime Credit Card for the same item and Peggy, quite lithely, crinkles up a sheet of paper exclaiming: “You break up…Call back next week.” Or the father vacationing with his family whose credit card isn’t working. In her inevitable gypsy dialect, Peggy assures the anxious dad,”Will call with solution…” and then the other shoe drops,”…in the morning.” Peggy then proceeds to seal the father’s fate with an ominous, “Sleep well, my friend.”
Peggy is the sum total of a good portion of our social, business, and governmental exchanges in recent years. The public asks for advice and guidance and is misunderstood or, worse yet, completely ignored. Peggy represents the accumulation of our technical communication abilities, yet she embodies the lack of human connection sadly prevalent in modern government and other apathetic bureaucracies. Peggy is the face, voice, and crinkle of communication breakdown; frustration personified.
Only one question still remains: "Is it too early to submit suggestions for Time Magazine's Person of the Year 2012?