Person of the year 2017 – the Silence Breakers

Time has announced a well deserved Person of the Year 2017 – the ‘Silence Breakers’.

Like the “problem that has no name,” the disquieting malaise of frustration and repression among postwar wives and homemakers identified by Betty Friedan more than 50 years ago, this moment is borne of a very real and potent sense of unrest. Yet it doesn’t have a leader, or a single, unifying tenet.

The hashtag #MeToo (swiftly adapted into #BalanceTonPorc, #YoTambien, #Ana_kaman and many others), which to date has provided an umbrella of solidarity for millions of people to come forward with their stories, is part of the picture, but not all of it.

This reckoning appears to have sprung up overnight. But it has actually been simmering for years, decades, centuries.

Women have had it with bosses and co-workers who not only cross boundaries but don’t even seem to know that boundaries exist. They’ve had it with the fear of retaliation, of being blackballed, of being fired from a job they can’t afford to lose. They’ve had it with the code of going along to get along. They’ve had it with men who use their power to take what they want from women.

These silence breakers have started a revolution of refusal, gathering strength by the day, and in the past two months alone, their collective anger has spurred immediate and shocking results: nearly every day, CEOs have been fired, moguls toppled, icons disgraced. In some cases, criminal charges have been brought.

The women and men who have broken their silence span all races, all income classes, all occupations and virtually all corners of the globe. They might labor in California fields, or behind the front desk at New York City’s regal Plaza Hotel, or in the European Parliament. They’re part of a movement that has no formal name. But now they have a voice.

In almost every case, they described not only the vulgarity of the harassment itself—years of lewd comments, forced kisses, opportunistic gropes—but also the emotional and psychological fallout from those advances. Almost everybody described wrestling with a palpable sense of shame. Had she somehow asked for it? Could she have deflected it? Was she making a big deal out of nothing?

Nearly all of the people TIME interviewed about their experiences expressed a crushing fear of what would happen to them personally, to their families or to their jobs if they spoke up.

Many examples are given in a long article, which concludes:

We’re still at the bomb-throwing point of this revolution, a reactive stage at which nuance can go into hiding. But while anger can start a revolution, in its most raw and feral form it can’t negotiate the more delicate dance steps needed for true social change. Private conversations, which can’t be legislated or enforced, are essential.

Norms evolve, and it’s long past time for any culture to view harassment as acceptable. But there’s a great deal at stake in how we assess these new boundaries—for women and men together. We can and should police criminal acts and discourage inappropriate, destructive behavior.

At least we’ve started asking the right questions. Ones that seem alarmingly basic in hindsight: “What if we did complain?” proposes Megyn Kelly. “What if we didn’t whine, but we spoke our truth in our strongest voices and insisted that those around us did better? What if that worked to change reality right now?” Kelly acknowledges that this still feels more like a promise than a certainty. But for the moment, the world is listening.

There are risks, but those are far outweighed by the risks of not doing anything about it, of sweeping an insidious problem under the carpet, of not confronting sexual harassers and predators who continue their attacks.

It should be pointed out that those mostly men being accused, while prominent people, are a small minority. The problem appears worse because the cretins often have assaulted and abused and harassed many victims.

Breaking the silence is a very significant step in the modern world. I hope it continues, carefully but loudly.

I think the Silence Breakers have the capability of making, forcing and encouraging significant positive change in society around the world.

Person of the year has “the pique of an American Kim Jong Un”

Unsurprisingly Time has named Donald Trump as their ‘Person of the Year’. Trump has dominated politics in the US and has piqued substantial interest around the world.

But after upsetting China over contact with Taiwan and then reacting to raised Chines eyebrows with a Twitter storm Trump has been described  as “thin-skinned and reacts to criticism with the pique of an American Kim Jong Un”.

The world is watching with anticipation and quite a bit of trepidation.

David Ignatius writes Trump flunks his first foreign policy test.

Devising a wise strategy for challenging China’s ascendancy in Asia is arguably the top foreign policy task for a new president. But if Trump planned to take a tougher stance, this was a haphazard way to do it. The president-elect instead stumbled into a pre-inaugural foreign flap, insulting Beijing and causing it to lose face.

Worse, Trump’s fulminations about China come just as his plan to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership is undermining the United States’ standing with allies in Asia. Trump, in effect, is ceding economic ground to China at the very moment he claims to be taking a harder line.

Trump’s phone call Friday with Taiwan’s president needn’t have created this crisis. The Chinese at first seemed willing to give the inexperienced Trump a pass — blaming the precedent-altering call on “petty” maneuvering by Taipei. Beijing presumably recognized that this wasn’t the time to pick a fight, and Trump should have adopted the same stance.

But Trump, evidently feeling cornered, doubled down. He unleashed a Twitter storm about China’s currency manipulation (a largely bogus charge he repeated through the campaign) and its aggressive actions in the South China Sea (a real problem requiring strong, steady U.S. leadership). An embarrassed China is sure to take countermeasures, which will further confound U.S. policy.

The episode reinforced two points about Trump: He loves to be flattered by calls from foreign leaders (including “presidents” of countries the United States doesn’t recognize). And he’s thin-skinned and reacts to criticism with the pique of an American Kim Jong Un.

Perhaps Trump and his advisers will learn from his mistakes.

Or perhaps he doesn’t care – or it could even be a deliberate strategy.

Superpower relations will be put to an unprecedented test over the next few years. It’s high risk – Trump’s approach could force positive changes, but he is more likely to increase tensions and is at serious risk of precipitating some major problems.

I hope like hell that things don’t go nuclear, but even if that is avoided a lot of damage can be done with ‘conventional’ weapons, and financial crashes.

Angela Merkel – Time person of the year

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been named as Time person of the year.

Timer provides a history of merkel and a detailed justification for their choice, and conclude:

Merkel’s legacy—her bold, fraught, immensely empathetic act of leadership—challenges more than the comfort of European life. It also challenges the comfort of assumptions about any group, including, if it works out, Germans. And it’s a legacy that flows not only from her childhood experience as a girl trapped behind a wall. It also follows from what she learned as an adult, applying her disciplined, methodical approach to what she calls “the things that matter to us most.” The Chancellor of Germany put anti-Semitism under her microscope, followed prejudice to its roots and found fear. Not only of Jews but of any “other,” including foreigners. Which takes in the whole world.

“Fear has never been a good adviser, neither in our personal lives nor in our society,” Merkel told a middle-aged woman who rose from an audience on Sept. 3 to ask what the Chancellor intended to do to prevent “Islamization,” with so many Muslims entering the country. “Cultures and societies that are shaped by fear,” Merkel said, “will without doubt not get a grip on the future.”

The ending has yet to be written. But that’s the moral of the story.

I think this is deserving recognition of what Merkel has done in Germany and in Europe.