Who shapes the world?

Monday, May 7, 2007

To some people, the world is defined by entertainers rather than people who make decisions affecting industry and government.

Time Magazine came out with a list of "100 people who shape the world" that is heavy on actors, talk show hosts and other glamorous celebrities of little substance.

The few politicians mentioned indicate a skewed political perspective. Presidential hopefuls Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are included but not President George Bush.

Clinton and Obama are more influential than Leonardo DiCaprio, Rosie O'Donnell and Justin Timberlake but does memorizing lines in a script, making glib comments on TV or singing songs shape the world more than yielding the authority of the president of the United States?

It doesn't matter what a person thinks of Bush as a president, he has a bigger role in shaping the world than Cate Blanchett, George Clooney or Tina Fey.

Time Magazine, in its annual naming of a "man of the year," has long demonstrated an understanding that determining who is the most influential person in a particular year is not based on popularity. Time is not even necessarily honoring the person designated.

Many people were offended when Time named Adolph Hitler the Man of the Year in 1938, those critical of the choice not understanding the meaning of the designation. When choosing the one person who was most dramatically shaping the world in 1938, Hitler was clearly the most logical choice.

But is it logical to choose Brad Pitt and Simon Fuller as yielding world-shaping power today, even when expanding the list from one to 100? And how pretentious is it for an American publication, selecting mostly American celebrities, to claim it is choosing the people who are "shaping the world"?

Even those on the list who are not American, such as British model Kate Moss, are likely to be people of little importance in the grand scheme of things. What relevance does a fashion model have on the lives of the billions of people in the third world or, for that matter, what relevance does a fashion model have on the lives of anyone?

Such lists are frivolous entertainment, but the sad fact is that some people regard the importance of a person or event by the person or event's glitz and glamour.