01 January 2014

My persons of 2013

If Time Magazine can choose a person of the year, I can choose two: a man and a woman.

The woman, of course, is Malala Yousafzai, the courageous young Pakistani champion of education. Malala started speaking out—blogging actually—about education at the tender age of 11. In 2012, she paid a horrific price for her advocacy. Sentenced to death by the Taliban, she was shot in the head by a young extremist.

But she survived and has turned the tragedy into an opportunity to proclaim the good word for education to an international audience. She has become the world's most prominent advocate for girls' education, indeed for education and women's rights generally, and her courage, resiliency and charm have done more to undermine the cause of the religious fanatics than all the violence waged against them. She has exposed their message as the shriveled residue of barbaric misogyny that it is.

My man of choice is Edward Snowden. Time chose the Pope and it was a good choice of a good man. He is after all the leader of a community with 1.2-billion members, and he does seem to be turning the Church in a more humane direction. Snowden's accomplishment was of quite a different order. He has given the world a forceful reminder of the dangerous partnership of power and secrecy by exposing the Orwellian mischief of his country's National Security Agency and its allies.

The Agency, ostensibly protecting the nation's security, has in fact run amok. It has collected the calling records of millions of its own citizens, tracked mobile phone users around the world, listened in to the democratically-elected leaders of its allies, spied on oil companies and energy ministries, attacked private encryption systems, and tapped into fiber-optic lines used by companies such as Google and Yahoo. And it has had the full co-operation of its Canadian colleagues. Big Brother is indeed watching.

We know about these excesses only because of Edward Snowden. We owe the man a very big thank you.

I doff my tuque to these two remarkable people and their remarkable deeds.

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