While there are many who have changed status quo and shaken the world to its bones, the people listed here changed the world in significantly permanent ways. Their acts of defiance and eluding the orthodox has shaped the world we live in. While the list is obviously longer, here are 5 people, who defiantly changed history.
1. Tarek el-Tayeb Mohamed Bouazizi
Humiliated by a policewoman and his stall confiscated, Tarek el-Tayeb Mohamed Bouazizi, a Tunisian street vendor went to the Governor’s office to complain. His plea ignored, Bouazizi set himself on fire in front of the Governor’s office, his last words being, "How do you expect me to make a living?" His self-immolation initiated the Arab Spring, a violent movement across Arab countries for increased democracy and cultural freedom. Within a month, violent protests led the Tunisian President to flee, ending his 24-year regime. This was followed by the overthrowing of the Egyptian President, following violent deaths of protestors by the Army. The movement quickly gained traction across other Gulf countries as well, with countries like Libya and Syria witnessing more violence and chaos. The Libyan protests would eventually lead to the brutal killing of Col. Gaddafi, Libya's ruler.
2. Mikhail Gorbachev
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Post World War-II, the Cold War, an open rivalry staged on political, economic and ideological fronts developed between the capitalist USA and communist USSR. The conflict spanned from the depths of sea to empty space, ranging from violent combat to subtle espionage. This was bolstered by the Iron Curtain, a military, political and ideological barrier erected by the USSR to cut off all communications with Western non-communist states, especially symbolised in the Berlin Wall which separated East Germany from West Germany and effectively, separation of Eastern and Western Europe. Mikhail Gorbachev, upon being elected the leader of the USSR, established policies like glasnost ("openness") and perestroika ("restructuring") and changed the strategic aims of the USSR, leading to the end of the Cold War and friendlier relations with the USA. Consequent internal pressure led to the dissolution of the USSR into separate nation states. He was awarded with the Nobel Peace Prize in 1990 for his “leading role in the peace process” in Europe.
3. Thích Qu?ng ??c
On the 11th of June, 1963, a busy intersection in downtown Saigon saw 350 Buddhist monks proceed. One of them, Thích Qu?ng ??c, sat on a cushion, was doused in petrol and lit himself on fire. His self-immolation was in protest of the regressive policies and rules against Buddhists implemented by the USA backed-Catholic Diem regime and was followed by several other protests by Buddhist monks of the same nature. Prior to his self-immolation, Thích Qu?ng ??c had written letters to his Buddhist community and the South Vietnamese government, explaining his motives. His self-immolation led to the spread of Engaged Buddhism in Vietnam, change of opinion on the US-backed government and the overthrow of the Diem regime.
4. Rosa Parks
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One evening in 1955, on a busy street in the capital of Alabama, a 42-year-old seamstress boarded a segregated city bus to return home from work, taking a seat near the middle, just behind the front “white” section. At the next stop, as more passengers occupied the “white” section, the bus driver ordered the black passengers in the middle row to stand so a white man could sit. The seamstress decidedly refused. Her actions sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the first large-scale demonstration against segregation that lasted 361 days, designed to put enough economic pressure on the city to listen. The campaign was so successful, it led to the desegregation of buses by the US Supreme Court. Rosa’s defiance changed the course of civil rights in American history, as it spurred more non-violent protests in other cities.
5. “Tank Man”
In one of China’s most brutal protest shutdowns, an unidentified man, nicknamed “Tank Man”, carrying his shopping, stood in front of a column of tanks from the People’s Liberation Army in Tiananmen Square, Beijing. Tank Man became an iconic image from the protests. His stand was the culmination of weeks of clashes between Chinese pro-democracy protesters and the government, during which thousands of people are thought to have been killed. The brutality at Tiananmen Square was a brutal crackdown on student pro-democracy protesters that sent shockwaves around the world.
By Ishita Srivastava