Channel 4 News and its savant, cherished anchor Jon Snow threw out a seasonal challenge yesterday: who changed the world in 2011?
It is unclear how public responses - definitely a sprawling salad of the sublime, sentimental, serious and stupid - will be consolidated and presented, but it's a nice device for debate so let battle be-joined with my own submissions...
Firstly, to those who technically did change the world but to its detriment, and so by definition deserve no reward at all (but must be shamed and eliminated). This sweep includes the entire UK cabinet plus the CEO's of all 100 FTSE companies; the former for pursuing blue/yellow agendas for ideological/political advancement without a public mandate, the latter for grotesque self-remuneration.
Add to this Murdoch, Wade, Coulson and the litany of insects exposed when the hacking rock was lifted. Leveson can suggest add-ons as the tabloid tank is slowly dredged.
The earth of course is bigger than Britain, so natural additions include those whose grisly departures changed the world such as Gadaffi and Bin Laden, and those who slaughtered their own people like Assad. Others who changed the world with deranged, unspeakable cruelty such as Norwegian killer Anders Behring Breivik and Jared Loughner who shot Congressman Gabrielle Giffords at close range are obviously better forgotten.
Now the good bit. Who changed the world for the better?
At home, Caroline Lucas' presence in the House of Commons made it appear a much more human and optimistic place; PJ Harvey made a very beautiful record; the former Canon of St Paul's faced off the increasingly brutal metropolitan police and then resigned on principle; former Clash musician Paul Simonon went undercover as a Greenpeace activist and stormed the Leiv Eriksson arctic oil rig; CEO of Lush Cosmetics Mark Constantine decided to pay his staff a living wage so they don't "worry about the rent" and seven year old Lucas Pinto confronted Tesco CEO Phillip Clarke on low pay and poverty because his Mum worries about little else.
Internationally, special mention must be given to Mohamed Bouazizi whose self-immolation kick started the Arab Spring, resulting in an on-going wave of civil uprising to end dictatorship/absolute monarchy and to achieve democracy, economic justice and freedom.
Warren Buffet changed the weather a bit by suggesting billionaires and the other super wealthies should pay more tax , and I suppose we all changed the world on 31st October by becoming a collective 7 billion of us on the face of the planet, with all the environmental and economic turmoil that particular development contains.
But enough, I do of course understand that the point of the Channel 4 News challenge is to home in on a single identity. Who changed the world in 2011?
That, I'm afraid is easy: no-one did. We are still hurtling towards irreversible climate catastrophe, our world is still chronically unequal, 11 million children died of preventable disease in 2011 and according to the WHO, hunger is still the greatest threat to global public health ; and yet there are 1,200 billionaires very alive and very well .
But on a more optimistic note, if old rainbow tie and his colleagues repeat this excercise at the end of 2012, might they have a bit more to play with?
The courage of those fighting or engaged in civil disobedience for freedom and economic justice - from Syria to St Paul's - has never been as visible as it was in 2011. According to the Global Language Monitor's annual global survey of the English language, 'Occupy' is the top word of 2011, and whilst there are obviously massive differences in the scale and nature of struggle, this movement was patently inspired by the tents of Tahrir Square.
So is it too wide-eyed and giddy to hope that in 2012, the answer to the Channel 4 challenge might be "all of us" or at least "more of us"?
Follow Mark Donne on Twitter: www.twitter.com/donne_mark