This morning The Atlantic published my analysis of what Quebec’s student protests mean to the global pattern of social uprisings.
Consider these thematic similarities in the events:
- The government oversteps with an abusive action or announcement of an offensive policy.
- Young people begin protesting to decry the injustice and start a larger debate about the legitimacy of the government, and its habit of doing favors for the rich and established at the expense of the young and poor.
- The government cracks down on protestors, spurring criticisms of illegally crushing free speech.
- Instead of quelling the dissent, the attempts to shut down protests helps expand them, contributing to a nationwide conversation about people’s shared distrust of failing institutions.
I believe that this kind of protest is going to get more predictable as the world’s governments come to slowly but surely recognize the impossibility of the current fiscal and financial regimes of the world’s economies. Instead of publicly admitting the failures of the eurozone, pension funds and healthcare, the plan appears to be acting like everything is normal – but then turning to the young and relatively powerless to renegotiate their deals. “Everything is normal,” they appear to say, “It’s just that you need to [insert new deal here: pay for your own healthcare, buy homes at triple the price they cost us, work without benefits, pay more college tuition] for everything to work out now. No complaining! Thanks! Bye!” The failure is being transferred over to the people least able to negotiate through means like lobbying, camapaign finance and other backroom dealing. Their options are sucking it up, or taking to the streets.
It could be Spring for a while.