I haven’t done a comparative study, but it’s probably safe to say that rarely has there been so much anger during relatively ‘peaceful’ times, in so many countries in both the ‘developing’ and so-called ‘developed’ world. The cause of the anger appears to be the same everywhere: popular discontent with the way governments are handling the complexities of modern life.
On the plus side, we’re seeing negotiations instead of revolts in parts of the south, mainly in Africa, where Sudan is negotiating its way to a power-sharing agreement between popular forces and the military; and perhaps due to a long history of French colonization, the Arab north, Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco have all responded positively to popular pressure for renewal: in Algeria, the leader of the fight for independence Abdelaziz Boutiflika, resigned after twenty years in power; Tunisia rejected Sharia law as the basis for legislation in 2012, and since has the most modern regime, while since the seventeenth century, Morocco has been ruled by Alaouites, who are syncretic Muslims, its current King, Mohammed VI, a reformist.
On the other side of the world, Hong Kong has been leading the news for several weeks, with protests over a plan to send indicted citizens to China for prosecution. (The enclave was handed over to China by Britain in 1997, becoming a special administrative whose government and economic systems would be separate from those of the the mainland. After twenty years, its young people especially, identify as Hong Kongers rather than as Chinese. Following weeks of demonstrations that led to increasing demands, the China-appointed Chief Executive, Cary Lamb, withdrew the plan, with China threatening to send more troops than those already stationed on the liberal peninsula. By the third week, Beijing was denouncing the uprising as a color revolution, as the protesters adopted western-perfected resistance techniques such as flash appearances in unpredictable places, or sitting-in at the airport.
Staying in South Asia, the small mountain enclave of Jammu and Kashmir is in turmoil, threatening the peace between its two powerful overseers. Created at the time of the partitioning of India and the founding of the Muslim state of Pakistan, in 1947. Oversight of its special autonomous status was shared with India, which granted a separate constitution in 1954. Although threats of war between India and Pakistan, both nuclear armed countries, have never materialized, the election of a Hindu nationalist, Narendra Modi, as Prime Minister of India in 2014 marked a turning point. Recently, in a surprise move, Modi decreed that Jammu and Kashmir would henceforth fall under the Indian constitution, with Hindus free to settle there, creating a new standoff with Pakistan.
Moving to the northwest, in Russia, Vladimir Putin celebrates twenty years of rule, as the opposition hankers after ‘democratic’ chaos, and Washington warns Europe to get serious about an ever-imminent ‘Russian threat’, which, at the very least, will affect their elections. (Depending on the day of the week, the Europeans either believe this, purchasing expensive American gas, or stick with the cheaper Russian pipeline).
Although the French have laid down their yellow vests during the sacred August holidays, Macron is sitting on a time bomb, while the populist government of Italy goes down in spectacular fashion, and Northern Ireland holds Boris Johnson’s Brexit hostage to memories of uncontrollable violence.
At home, Americans are still powerless to confront the constitution’s Second Amendment right for individuals to carry firearms, drafted in colonial times, as free enterprise makes military-grade firearms available to all. For decades, Democrats have begged in vain for ‘common sense gun reform’, since the National Rifle Association pays congress handsomely ‘to protect the Second Amendment’. Although Donald Trump’s attitude toward race was clear during his campaign, the press failed to denounce it, appearing only now to ‘discover’ that he is a white supremacist — or at least willing to give the growing movement cover. Once in a while it reports Trump’s warning that should he fail to be re-elected next year his well-armed base will ‘come out onto the streets’. Following two recent mass shootings, one of which targeted Mexican immigrants in a border Walmart, the President has alternately claimed that “it’s deranged individuals’, not guns, that kill people”, and that the NRA will allow background checks for buyers at ‘gun fairs’ (yes, you read that right, gun fairs)!
The media points vaguely back to the nineteen-thirties, without mentioning Trump’s imitation of Mussolini’s chin-thrust, or Hitler’s power over a crowd, or the fact that in both cases, citizens were powerless. Beyond the ‘mere’ threat of fascism is evidence that in the age of cell phones and television, no matter their stripe, governments are challenged as never before. As for that “of, for and by the people”, in Lincoln’s memorable words, climate change may not allow it time to become a reality.
Deena Stryker is a US-born international expert, author and journalist that lived in Eastern and Western Europe and has been writing about the big picture for 50 years. Over the years she penned a number of books, including Russia’s Americans. Her essays can also be found at Otherjones. Especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.