The current economic model was once again at the center of the debate. It was not only young people who protested the policies of Wall Street and the adjustments imposed on many of the countries of the eurozone to solve the debt mess. So did leading economists and even the Catholic Church, who marked on the 2011 calendar the need to give a new direction to the world economy.
For the young people who protested in the main cities, the system does not work. “We have to change it for a better one that represents us all. We are fed up. We can’t take it anymore,” they shouted in Prague, Budapest, Athens, Rabat, Madrid, Paris, Berlin and Lisbon. In a message addressed to world leaders, the Vatican questioned the current world financial system, which it called selfish and hoarding.
Without referring directly to the movement of the indignant, but in reference to the malaise that has arisen, Pope Benedict XVI recalled that “more than a million people live on little more than a dollar a day and that inequalities in the world have increased “.
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) pointed out that the gap between the richest and the poorest has skyrocketed to the highest level in the last 30 years in the member countries of this organization, even in the traditionally more egalitarian , like Germany.
One of the world’s richest men, Warren Buffet, shocked many this year when he complained about paying too little in taxes, while his workers paid higher rates than he did. The complaint gave rise to the newspaper The New York Times headline ‘Stop pampering the super-rich’ and, without a doubt, encouraged the ‘Occupy Wall Street we are the 99 percent’ movement, which the previous week went from protesting in the streets from major US cities to ports where they allegedly seek to impact the remaining 1 percent, they say.
Power of protest
These protests are a powerful signal throughout the world. Its mere existence shows that people are willing to think globally to find ways out of the crisis, at a time when the economy is driving politicians down the path of national solutions.
Despite their political marginalization – in some countries like the US and Greece they have broken with marginalization – it is a fact that in 1931 when the vestiges of globalization 1.0 were collapsing, there were no massive international protests against austerity. There were many national and nationalist protests.
The London protesters carried a fake street sign reading “Tahir Square, EC4M”. It was not the square in Cairo, but it obeyed the same impulse to occupy physical space.
This impulse is due to two elements: the first has to do with the fact that it is an effective action that is being transmitted independently of the political structures and hierarchies of the political parties. If you camp somewhere the press will show up and you can have the pleasant feeling, however brief, of living the dream of a communal and negotiated existence.
The second element arises from the fact that this communal, negotiated and interconnected life already exists in people’s heads as a result of the rapid adoption of social networks and interconnected lifestyles. As Manuel Castells, one of the first sociologists to study the internet, pointed out, “the more autonomous and rebellious people’s attitudes are, the more they use these internets. The more they use the internet, the more autonomous their lifestyles become.”
Something has happened between the right and left earphones of this generation that represents a major change in attitude. I’m still trying to figure out what it is.