Chile protests

Mass Protests are Back – What Are We Waiting For?

New Orleans       Don’t tell me you haven’t noticed?  If you can make it past the daily Trump wailing wall, there’s one report after another of protests.  Not some piddling ten- or twenty-person thing, though there’s plenty of that as well, but I’m talking about mass protests, thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, even millions are hitting the streets in country after country.  This list is global and long:  Algeria, Argentina, Bolivia, Britain, Catalonia, Chile, Columbia, Ecuador, France, Guinea, Haiti, Honduras, Hong Kong, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Lebanon, Pakistan, and more.

It hasn’t escaped the notice of the powers that be and everywhere they are.  Theories abound.  Authoritarians look for conspiracies behind every kitchen door as more voices are raised.  They need to look under fewer rocks and spend more time looking over their shoulder.  They must know we’re coming for them, slowly, but surely.

Anyway, I wish that were true, but, regardless, what’s happening?

Is it simply too many young people and too few jobs?  A return of the sixties, but this time with cell phones and social media?  If all of this were about climate, then I might think so.  In America in the sixties, young people were in motion over an existential threat with Vietnam, civil rights, women rising, and more.  Certainly, climate change is a similar threat, but like modern war, it’s not personal enough today to trigger a mass movement in the United States yet.  The six-month long protests in Hong Kong are certainly existential.  Even as the protests have been reduced to a harder core, the outpouring of votes in the municipal election are yet more evidence of the fact that the protestors are the sharp end of a very long stick and the thickness of their mass base.

Inequality and the outrage that it triggers seems a more likely explanation.  People fed up who can’t take it anymore.  Observers and elites at 30,000 feet scratch their heads at how a tiny fare increase could enflame all of Chile, a marginal increase in fuel prices in Iran where gas is still only fifty-cents per gallon, or students in France over fees when the annual cost of universities is less than $200 per year could all tear the sheets and send people into the streets.  They fail to understand the depth of the outrage over unequal distributions within the economy that have built up until the volcanoes of rage erupt everywhere.

In country after country there seems to be a straight line pointing to the economy and the growing recognition that change has to come. There needs to be a fair share.  There’s only one real question?  What are we waiting for?  Hey, President Trump, Wall Street, Silicon Valley, and billionaires by the bunch, are your worried yet?  The time is coming.

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