Economist: The Revolution Will Not Be Liberalized
Across the globe citizens are taking to the streets in mass demonstrations with a wide spectrum of themes: from political and social repression, human rights, corruption, high unemployment, and discriminatory economic systems. The trend has resulted in significant governmental and political reform in Arab and African nations and now U.S. protesters have taken aim at the world of high finance—Wall Street. The Wall Street protests, organized by a group called “Occupy Wall Street,” point to the Tahrir Square protests in Egypt that recently toppled a decades-long dictatorship as their inspiration.
Members of Occupy Wall Street cite a host of gathering calls including income inequality, high unemployment, corporate greed, and suppression of the democratic process. On Wall Street in New York City, home to some of the world’s largest investment banks and financial firms, protestors are entering their third week of rallies, sleep-ins, and marches against the perceived corruption of Wall Street firms, corporate influence over the political system, and other social injustices. Despite the lack of a single cohesive message, the Occupy Wall Street movement has been spreading across the country to places like Boston, Seattle, Ohio, California, and Pennsylvania with rumors of more protests in other cities in the works.
Some observers are calling Occupy Wall Street a ‘national movement’ similar to those that have occurred in other parts of the world like Libya, India, Israel, Spain, and Greece. Libyan citizen movements resulted in the overthrow of an entire decades-old regime, Indian activists are exposing government corruption, and Israeli demonstrators continue to protest political and income disparities. In Spain, where the unemployment rate of 21% is the highest in the developed world, demonstrators are challenging the government to do more to ease economic suffering. In Greece, the harsh spending cuts the government has implemented to continue receiving bailout founds from the International Monetary Fund and European Union have resulted in violent riots, social unrest, and even an increase in suicides. The common theme among all these groups is a collective lack of confidence in their governments. Although the U.S protests may appear less cohesive—and some critics claim less compelling—than these global protests, they represent a resurgence of activism not seen in the U.S. since the Vietnam War.
The low costs of social networking sites, access to governmental information mapping applications, and web-based organizational tools that make mass communication fast and efficient have helped make the massive protests around the globe possible. People around the world can now hear rally cries from protestors in any country instantaneously. Although the causes for these grass-roots efforts vary widely, a common theme is apparent. Citizens feel their governments are ignoring their concerns, so they are taking to the streets in a desperate attempt to revive the democratic process. To date, the impact of global protests has been profound, but it remains to be seen if Occupy Wall Street will result in any substantive reform.