The list of nations around the world with nearly constant and widespread protests seems to be growing.
Here are at least some:
- Hong Kong – more than six months now over justice and against China
- Chile – started over a bus fare increase, became a general protest
- Bolivia – against irregularities in election, now against a claimed “coup”
- Catalonia – for (and against) independence from Spain
- Lebanon – “against the political elite” – shutting the legislature down
- Venezuela – for and against the Maduro regime, food and other shortages
- West Bank and Gaza – against Israeli occupation and opposed Arab groups
- Georgia (not US one) – demanding early elections and changes in elections
- Iran – over higher gasoline taxes, growing larger and bloodier
- Iraq – in ports and the capital, anti-government
- Ecuador – against austerity measures
- France – the “yellow vest” protests against government continue, year+
- Zimbabwe – anti-government
Hundreds of people are apparently killed each week, around the world, as authorities and opponents fight protesters. And sometimes it is the protesters that wound and kill others.
Most of these can be characterized as ‘anti-government,” without a doubt. Many more are not being reported, certainly. And the dividing line between “protests” and “riots” or even “rebellions” or “revolts” can be hard to define. As is the question of who is initiating force in each situation. It is a mess, without question.
But why are we seeing so much of this? Is it simply that media, desperate for clicks, makes a big deal out of virtually anything these days? Is it part of a worldwide epidemic of madness? Are conditions getting worse and worse? Is it a plot by the transnational progressives, especially those in the Fifty States and Europe?
The explanations given are wild and vary even more wildly. Some claim it is a worldwide phenomenon that has been growing since the Arab Spring protests in North Africa and the Middle East in 2011; a mania like tulips or pet rocks or Silicon Valley IPOs. Others claim that increasing globalization and commercialization has reached such levels that people are desperate and willing to protest just to try to claim their “dignity” back. Others point to the rise in demagogues and populist fascists whipping up frenzies. (Or the “opposite” – the political and financial elites in their continuing “deep-state” and various other conspiracies.) Still others hope that it is a sign of rapidly increasing frustration, distrust and rejection of government.
Some chalk it up to defiance and dissent with a host of matters. One person commented that “they want to be treated like adults, so they go out and behave like whiny little two-year-olds.”
Others see protests as rooted in less admirable attitudes. Protests and riots against Jews were common in many European countries for centuries, for example. Protests targeted black people – and not just in the South – for a century. Even when protests are against some specific group (other than government) it is often actually against government, because the group is seen to be favored by (or even just tolerated by) the government. Again, why some groups and situations do not trigger protests “in the streets” and others do, is not well understood. Is it because of outside influences and even orders? Is it some other country’s intelligence agency or special forces ramping things up?
Good arguments can be made for all these explanations, I suppose. As a lover of liberty, I have my preferences and my biases. I’d like to believe it is a rejection of government of all kinds, from the totalitarian versions in Venezuela and your typical “Arab monarchy” to the supposed liberal democracies like Spain and France. And that outside “influencers” merely build on the resistance that already exists.
But there is more than that.
Some people claim that people take to the streets in protests – and that people riot – because they have lost all hope and have nothing more to lose.
But perhaps the cause is just the opposite. Maybe people protest because they hope that this action will cause change and make things better for them. Not just for them but for their family and their community, whether that is religious or ethnic or social or even business community.
Or, as one reader has suggested, protests are just one more symptom of the madness sweeping the world. Still other people think that often they are nothing more than excuses to skip school or work (or the dole line) or just to loot.
From the point of view of a lover of liberty, I think that people protest because they want and need changes to society and their communities, and hope that they can do something by visibly acting. Since they know that voting, letters to government officials, and letters to the editor do little or nothing 95% of the time, they hope that “the squeaky wheel gets the grease” will hold true. It is due to a lack of education and as naïve as thinking that voting or these other things will really make a difference.
What will make a difference is a refusal to play the game: call it civil disobedience or non-violent rebellion, or whatever. That includes things like ignoring laws when what you are doing is harming no one else. Like refusing to pay taxes and fees. Like intentionally blocking actions by government which you do not believe the government should be doing. But that requires planning, and a large degree of cooperation with others of like mind – in ones or twos, civil disobedience is merely jousting against windmills. And it also requires the self-discipline to NOT resort to violence -sometimes not even violence in self-defense.
It is not easy. But carrying out personal responsibilities seldom is.