Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A World on Fire

The year 1968 was one of protest and demonstratons worldwide. It now looks like 2011 is another turning point like that. Here's a bit from a Reuters article:
Tahrir Square in Cairo, Green Square in Tripoli, Syntagma Square in Athens and now Zuccotti Park in New York -- popular anger against entrenching power elites is spreading around the world.

Many have been intrigued by the Occupy Wall Street movement against financial inequality that started in a New York park and expanded across America from Tampa, Florida, to Portland, Oregon, and from Los Angeles to Chicago.

Hundreds of activists gathered a month ago in the Manhattan park two blocks from Wall Street to vent their anger at what they see as the excesses of New York financiers, whom they blame for the economic crisis that has struck countless ordinary Americans and reverberated across the global economy.

In the U.S. movement, Arab nations see echoes of this year's Arab Spring uprisings. Spaniards and Italians see parallels with Indignados (indignant) activists, while voices in Tehran and Beijing with their own anti-American agendas have even said this could portend the meltdown of the United States.

Inspired by the momentum of the U.S. movement, which started small but is now part of U.S. political debate, activists in London will gather to protest outside the London Stock Exchange on October 15 on the same day that Spanish groups will mass on Madrid's Puerta del Sol square in solidarity.
The future always make sense when reviewed in reverse. The really hard task is to look toward the yet-to-be future and make sense of it. I hope 2011 is an axial point in history, but this will be clear in 10 years, not now.

What I would like to see is a spreading protest through Asia. The Chinese need to put pressure on their government to allow the consumer society to blossom. The Japanese need to get their government to get their government to take responsibility for Fukushima and to get their economy growing.

Update 2011oct12: I'm hoping that 2011 will prove to be far more influential than 1968, but only time will tell. We are too close to events.

A book which gives you some understanding of the significance of the year 1968 is Mark Kurlansky's 1968: The Year That Rocked the World

From a review:
In 1968, Mark Kurlansky brings to life the cultural and political history of that world-changing year of social upheaval. To some, it was the year of sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Yet it was also the year of the Martin Luther King, Jr., and Bobby Kennedy assassinations; the riots at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago; Prague Spring; the antiwar movement and the Tet Offensive; Black Power; the generation gap; avant-garde theater; the upsurge of the women's movement; and the beginning of the end for the Soviet Union. From New York, Miami, Berkeley, and Chicago to Paris, Prague, Rome, Berlin, Warsaw, Tokyo, and Mexico City, spontaneous uprisings occurred simultaneously around the globe." "Kurlansky shows how the coming of live television made 1968 the first global year. It was the year that an awestruck world watched the first live telecast from outer space, and that TV brought that day's battle - the Vietnam War's Tet Offensive - into America's living rooms on the evening news. Television also shocked the world with seventeen minutes of police clubbing demonstrators at the Chicago convention, live film of unarmed students facing down Soviet tanks in Czechoslovakia, and a war of starvation in Biafra. The impact was huge, not only on the antiwar movement, but also on the medium of television itself. The fact that one now needed television to make things happen was a cultural revelation with enormous consequences." In many ways, this momentous year led us to where we are today. Whether through youth and music, politics and war, economics and the media, Mark Kurlansky shows how, in 1968, twelve volatile months transformed who we were as a people. But above all, he gives a new insight into the underlying causes of the unique historical phenomenon that was the year 1968.
Will 2011 eclipse 1968? What about other key dates of mass uprisings such as 1789 or 1848? Only time will reveal the significance of 2011 to us.

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