A Culture of Protest — Global Warning


(Photo by Barbara Boksa)

Like the sublimation of matter into gaseous vapors, an archaic political paradigm is up in smoke. Protests around the world have taken center-stage in the ongoing battle against economic injustice — where wealth has saturated the veins of a select few. The feeling is global. It echoes from Tahrir Square in Cairo. It’s clinking in the champagne glasses of corporate CEO’s toasting to irate individuals on Wall Street. It can be felt in the pounding hearts in front of Flagstaff’s City Hall.

When in Rome…torch cars and smash windows. That was the sight this past weekend as ‘the indignant ones’ brought their message to Italian banks.

“I am here to show support for those don’t have enough money to make it to the next pay check while the ECB (European Central Bank) keeps feeding the banks and killing workers and families,” said Danila Cucunia, a 43-year-old teacher in a Reuters interview.

Closer to home, New York was recently the scene of 5,000 protesters occupying Time Square. Known for its dazzling New Year’s celebration, Time Square became the scene of furious mobs. One protester felt citizens dropped the ball.

“People don’t want to get involved. They’d rather watch on TV,” said Troy Simmons, 47 during a Reuters interview. “The protesters could have done better today. … People from the whole region should be here and it didn’t happen.”

Dr. Carroll Thompson, a political economy instructor at NAU, believes that the benefits of demonstration outweigh the risk. Yes some people will go to jail, and yes some people will be killed. But how many people are dying every day from the lack of health care. We are already dying. It’s not like oh… you are being disruptive and breaking laws; it’s dangerous. No, everyday life is dangerous because we don’t have healthcare. We have debt. We don’t have jobs. That’s dangerous. “

Worldwide we are tearing down the dams that corporations and political leaders have placed on our streams of thought. The Occupy movement has taken flight from Wall Street in New York and emerged on sidewalks and street corners throughout the globe. Complacency has been exchanged for freedom. For the first time in a long time, people are standing up to the system of greed. They know their voices speak louder as a community; they ring far above the somber tone found lingering in our Nation’s capital.

“It’s on the internet. It’s on Facebook, it’s on Youtube, it’s all over the place,” says Adam Neville, a protestor at Occupy Flagstaff. A culture of protest has rippled through our global community. “Our society has gotten to a certain point where we can’t keep going the same way.”

And he may be right. Libyan protests spread virally through web communication. One Facebook group called “The Libyan Youth Movement” shares it goal with over 20,000 followers to “awaken our people from the unjust oppression and remove the ring of corruption and despotism.” Photographs capture Libyan’s in street clothes wielding grenade launchers and automatic weapons. This revolution turned violent is just one example of how citizens have united in opposition.

The days of radio waves and cardboard signs have been outnumbered but are not obsolete. Once seemed lost in the distant world of hyperlinks and story less photo albums, solidarity has resurrected through the ease of information. It is the method of communication that has changed, not the timeless essence of a community uniting. You will find the same picketers today as you did on the lawns of Capitol Buildings during the Vietnam War. How they came to unite is what may differ.

Dr. Thompson believes demonstration has always been an effective approach. “Direct action is a valid strategy. It has different expressions. It can be different in New York, Flagstaff, or San Diego.  It’s okay to shut down the streets because business as usual serves one percent of the population. It very much empowers the least powerful.”

 In fact, 400 Americans hold more wealth then 150 million combined.

Sarah Boelioez, an NAU student, feels she is part of that majority — the 99 percent of Americans who have yet to feel the trickle-down. “I think it’s about time, I’m about to graduate, what am I going to do?” She said the movement hits close to home. Her mother recently lost her house after becoming over-burdened by debt. Occupy Flagstaff was one way for her to raise her voice.

A feeling of distrust toward big banks and corporations is a common theme in protests raging around the world. In Spain, where their jobless rate is 21 percent, many feel the money may be going into the wrong hands.

“It’s not fair that they take your house away from you if you can’t pay your mortgage, but give billions to the banks for unclear reasons,” said a 44-year-old telecom company employee, who declined to give her name during a Reuters interview.

“The underlying foundation that is similar is the government that serves only a few, a few elite Egyptians, a few elite Libyan’s, and very few elite Americans,” Thompson said.


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