In Turkey protesters took over a broad downtown section of the nation’s largest city for two weeks. In Italy the fastest growing political party is actually a protest movement that wants to radically transform government. In Brazil millions are in the streets, blockading highways and disrupting international soccer games. All over the world people are not only rejecting the established political order, they are rejecting the mechanisms for creating change.
Riot police will likely clear away all the protesters and pragmatic legislation will dull the idealism of fringe political parties but these moments are not just hiccups in global power, they are early symptoms of its downfall. This has been going on for years, notably in 2011 with the Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street but it has picked up speed this month. Did I mention that there is also an occupation outside of the parliament of Lebanon right now? And mass protests in Bulgaria?
This is still the beginning. A lot of these movements that have burst into being have faded as quickly as they began, though all of the conditions that created them still exist. In fact, the pile of kindling is growing higher.
The status quo still has three huge advantages, but each one is becoming weaker. First, they have a monopoly on violence, meaning that aggression on their part is seen as justified. The catalyst for many of the movements has actually been a mass rejection of that. When police used force against small groups of protesters the public did not support them and in fact its images served as a catalyst for growth. Second, they control the media. Big media owners are ether national governments or large corporations, both of which benefit from the status quo and thus have a bias toward its defense. New technologies have dramatically altered the landscape and allow less established groups or individuals to disseminate information widely. Third, the world’s power brokers and dominant institutions are mature while the dissidents do not have much experience. That is still very much true, but there is a steep learning curve as ripples from various movements splash against each other and share best practices.
A new, global, hyper-connected participatory system is emerging. This is an exciting time to be alive.
I’ll be writing a column titled “Revolutions” this summer for Nowhere Magazine. Expect a new post about once a week, so stay tuned.