Cherry-picking a mere 100 people from across the world and from across all walks of life and getting everyone to agree to it is practically impossible.
The 9th edition of the TIME magazine's annual list of 100 Most Influential People, despite its carefully segregated categories to objectively include Moguls, Breakouts, Icons, Pioneers and Leaders, appear to have introduced people who are little known, even in their own regions.
Without confusing the words fame and influence, it is safe to say that an individual unheard of can hardly be influential -- especially so in the case of activists -- let alone share the same platform as world leaders who actually shape the destinies of billions. This is why it is surprising that Russian political blogger Alexei Navalny made the list while Russian leaders Vladimir Putin or Dmitry Medvedev, despite their role in determining the political crisis in Middle East and the democracy in their own country, didn't.
Consider the actress Tilda Swinton, who made it to the list, but was backed by a profile which primarily talks only about her acting prowess. As filmmaker Sally Potter wrote, the actress who starred in We Need to Talk About Kevin, may definitely be voluble, wildly funny and affectionate and may have knowledge of world cinema. But how does it make her any more influential than any other British or Hollywood actors or icons?
Try running a search on Anjali Gopalan, who made the list from India along with the Indian politician Mamata Banerjee, on Google News including results for the past one or two years -The human rights activist and the founder of the New Delhi based Naz Foundation, a Non-Governmental Organization working on HIV/AIDS and sexual health, will return less than a page of results in English, which doesn't talk anything about her initiative.
Her court petition to legalize sodomy failed to stir any mainstream or widespread public awareness. So when Gopalan made the list beating India's anti-corruption activist Anna Hazare -- who inspired mass protests across the country to rock the government, mobilizing India's elite and the middle class across the political spectrum -- it does raise some eyebrows.
One cannot help wondering how Kate and Pippa Middleton, the British sisters who achieved instant fame, are more influential than their Prime Minister David Cameron. Did the number of people who went under the knife to achieve a figure like Pippa or go shopping for a dress worn by Kate, exceed those who were influenced by the policy decisions Cameron made?
Aliaa Magda Elmahdy, the Egyptian blogger who created a worldwide storm and influenced the nascent beginnings of a democracy by polarizing religious fanatics, liberals and the conservatives, was not even a contender for the TIME's list while Syrian cartoonist Ali Ferzat, who turned his artistic abilities against the President Bashar al-Assad, did make it.
Bestselling author and Pulitzer prize finalist Robert Wright wrote in The Atlantic about the list: Am I the only one who finds a lot of these names either new or only vaguely familiar?
The people on Time's list are certainly interesting, he wrote. They find cures to diseases, new ways to visualize data, and new ways to educate children. If I had to title this list I'd call it '40 of the world's most influential people plus 60 people who would give a great TED talk' Or maybe '40 of the world's most influential people plus some people who exemplify important forms of influence.' And maybe that kind of list makes more sense now than it would have 20 years ago.