Why are people resorting to street politics across the globe?
Al Jazeera, 11 February 2014
John Bell is Director of the Middle East Programme at the Toledo International Centre for Peace in Madrid.
In 2012, after the beginnings of the Arab revolutions, Paul Mason, editor at BBC’s Newsnight programme, wrote a book called Why It’s Kicking Off Everywhere – The New Global Revolutions. Mason pointed out that social neworks, a newfound sense of self-reliance, and a disjuncture between the young and an old political order are ushering in a new age of discontent.
He may well be right. Today, while the Arab world continues with its political somersaults, the street in Thailand, Ukraine, Brazil and Turkey and elsewhere is alive with protest. Foreign Policy magazine has put together a timeline highlighting that demonstrations have indeed significantly increased globally over the past 20 years.
Why are people going out on the street to address their woes? It’s an act of courage and determination that can land you in jail, one far more difficult than simply casting a vote in the ballot box. What has changed?
The internet is certainly everyone’s favourite cause. We are better informed, more aware of inequalities due to globalisation, as well as the shady complicity of our leaders. Smart phones and computers have also accelerated and improved organisational capacity, and middle classes have risen in many countries, along with their related demands. As a result, average folk are haunted by the stark possibility that the state can no longer provide for their material and emotional needs; employment and a sense of dignity and empowerment are all under serious threat.
Gaps fuel discontent
Phi Beta Iota: There are three major trends. First, the concentration of wealth, legalized by corrupt governments. Second, the collapse of government legitimacy, less the Nordics, BENELUX, and Singapore. Third, the Internet, that makes possible public intelligence in the public interest. The preconditions of revolution have been established — and ignored by corrupt academics, corrupt civil society, corrupt commerce, corrupt government, corrupt law enforcement, corrupt media, corrupt military, and corrupt non-government/non-profits. The people are learning that they cannot rely on any organization — and least of all labor unions and religions — to earnestly strive on behalf of the public interest. All organizations have become captives of their managers whose sole objective is to enhance their personal privileges and wealth. Hence, we are at the beginning of a major revolution in which new forms of currency, new forms of organization, and new forms of trust are being developed.