This essay aims at bringing to prominence the emerging global trend of a stronger expression of ‘people power’, which is traversing the idea of states being the insurers of their people’s welfare, as espoused at the beginning of the post-war anti-colonial era, when most nations got their independence. In the last six decades, has humanity learnt that snatching freedom from the vast colonial empires was not enough, and that it is time to take the power into individual hands?
How will this phenomenon unfold, as the mainstream media tries to cancel its effect, and as news of protests, riots and sit-ins have started coming on an everyday basis? Is humanity on the brink of explosion, are the seemingly less horrid enemies namely ‘inflation’, ‘corruption’ and ‘exploitation’ eventually going to bring the revolution, which great leaders have failed to bring about?
The Carnegie Endowment recently published an article ‘In Brazil, Turkey, and Chile, Protests Follow Economic Success’, by Moises Naim, on its official website. The idea of the write-up is to put up anti-rhetoric against the real issues of rising global food and utility prices, and to attempt to bury one’s head in the sand, wherein all seems bright and green, by giving an image that people are coming out for no good reason.
The writer, ignoring the momentum of the globally rising trend in public protests against the policies of their governments and the amplifying of austerity measures, resorts to wishfully describing them as ‘…the protest movements are highly localized, focused on grievances specific to a single country…’, further adding that ‘the countries in which these protests have occurred do have something in common: economic success.’
Although the writer may be right regarding the overall progress in technological advancements that have evolved city life around the world, along with GDP figures of the above mentioned countries, but this is an illusion. Amidst these visual changes and alluding numbers, he fails to see the skyrocketing food and commodity prices, as well as the escalating fuel and energy bills that have crunched the average person to the lowest limits of purchase power.
In each – Brazil, Chile and Turkey, who have been hit by this latest the wave of protesting people, one sees localized events igniting countrywide participation; but the truth does not lie in the organization of masses upon non-issues, like an unaware herd of cattle would follow the tide of commotion without any need of inquiry. Rather, it must be reasoned that the masses have been systematically cornered to such amounts of shortcomings in their actual living conditions that the pressure of discontent and frustration has steadily amassed to tipping points, wherein small matters may be enough to ignite the lava of anger already present and looking for possible catharsis. Therefore, seemingly disconnected cities and countries may be conceptually connected to similar phenomenon, whereby they share the misery of not having the ends meet.
So are these events isolated? Do the Occupy Wall Street, the Arab Spring, the Spanish protests (ongoing since 2011), the yearlong Greek protests of 2011, and a myriad of other protests, riots and demonstrations all around the world have no phenomenal connection? It is alarming how these events are occurring in such intensity that seldom goes by a day when we do not get by such reports from some place around the world.
The Occupy, which became a global movement soon after its first round in New York, on 17 Sep 2011, is said to have hit over 95 cities in 82 countries since then. The ‘15 Oct Global Call’ alone was so strong that on that single day, 900 cities around 4 continents witnessed rallies, some turning violent too. Though the Western governments were able to downer the movement by much media blackout and use of power at the end, but the movement still poses to be alive, with the possibility of awakening at any unpredictable time in the near future.
The Arab Spring that had begun in Dec 2010, was a series of demonstrations, riots and sit-ins that enveloped close to 17 Arab nations, having toppled governments in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen and causing the ongoing war in Syria. Though some of these springs started with localized events, but how those single events had the powers to stir whole nations with them and how similar events have gone by unnoticed innumerable times in the same societies, is a question indeed. It is true that single events may have led these springs, but it is also definite that the frustration and heat needed for the masses to spring out in alterations was already boiling beneath the Arab soil, and that heat took the events to the climax they came to; and it is also true that the 3rd world countries are generally rife with discontent upon their governments in the post-war, independence era.
Analysts have rightly put the blame of the Arab uprisings on the inapt and corrupt regimes that have been barring these nations from the progress they were capable of, under their civil dictatorships. But the same analysts tend to forget that the exact same factors were behind the Occupy Movement, wherein the slogans were against the ‘global financial system’, the ‘large corporations’, the ‘Wall Street’ and their governments whom they thought were exploiting them, the ‘99%’ for the benefits of the ‘1%’. So, how then were the Occupy ones reverted and the Arab ones came to their conclusions? Was it that the Western governments were truly democratic and the people were eventually satisfied with their overall systems and returned? Or was it the superiority of the Western governments in their already mastered media manipulation and PSYOPS, and an upper hand in the technologies used in the Occupy, i.e., Twitter, Facebook, etc., and eventually the use of force, which was blanketed from the mainstream media? And in all such solutions, the Arab states had lacked.
But the Occupy and the Spring, though major movements, are not the only issue, rather public demonstrations have become the trend of the day as democratic awareness is pushing more and more people out of their homes and into the streets; be it the rights of a minority; demand for wage increase; show against austerity; rage against poor condition of state services, anything, you name it, the people will be out in the streets over them; threatening to burn themselves, pledging over hunger, torching the dummies.
We have, in our recent memory, large scale protests; from Bangladesh over unjust trial upon their religious leaders; through days and days of Indians protesting against the rising endemic of rape in their country; Kashmiris on their streets against the ugly and barbaric acts of their oppressors; the Saffron Monk of Burma against the hike in fuel prices; the marches against Monsanto and Bedroom Tax; to protests for wages, fuel prices and blasphemy law and Long Marches for a change of system in Pakistan.
Many of these emerging demonstrations have been alleged to be leaderless along with being spontaneous, which reduced the ability of the governments to negotiate with these demonstrators, who again are unable to specify their demands. But being without a leader also spotlights the increasing mistrust of the common man on leadership. The question is, is the faith of the common man on the system of state governments being shattered all around the world, and is it such a powerful phenomenon, which can capsize the whole political hierarchy around the world as we know it? The UN that was brought to existence to bar humanity from falling into the pit of another world war, in its error of backing a global financial system that eventually benefited the 1%, may have done the grave sin of dragging humanity into an unpredictable state of eruption!
Though all this may be too much to say, but certainly, to ignore such an obvious chain of events would be just as naïve. Mere repression will not be enough for the 21st century governments, to quiet a people who have been fed more and more the dream of democratic power and starved more and more of basic human rights and necessities.