Brazil, Turkey, and the Decade of Protests
Just when the protests in Turkey were getting into the full swing of things, another big country erupted in public demonstrations (that would be Brazil). CNN deemed the Turkish protests “massive and sustained;” sustainability here means that the protests in Istanbul and elsewhere are attracted enough momentum to dedicate serious time and effort (having a 10-years-in authoritarian leader in power seems to be a good inkling that a protest will become sustained). The Brazilian protests, too, seem to have caught a wave, and with their debut I now christen the 2010’s to be the Decade of Protests.
What do Turkey and Brazil have in common? Plenty of writers, speculators and, of course, world leaders (such as Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s prime minister) have made the connections between the two wildly different-seeming countries. Turkey and Brazil have quite the advanced economies (Turkey is, after all, considered a “first-world” country), which not only is their main similarity but also the big irony in the whole affair. Despite experiencing growth during the past decade, even despite the Great Recession, these two nations have experienced intense discontent. Clearly an economic upturn doesn’t equate wealth and equality for all, and there might be some merit to the idea, I argue, that a glossy, globalized country isn’t what some want at all.
Take the case in Turkey: the straw that broke the turkey’s back was that the Strombulites didn’t want a shiny new shopping mall to be built on Gezi Park (I’m still mulling over the possibility whether, when the Turkish protests do finish, whether Gezi shall be bulldozed or not). Economic progress, rejected! And take the Brazilians: although the straw on this side of the world was a 10-cent increase in public transportation fares, the other reasons for Brazilian protest seem to point, again, at a dislike for what most in the Western World would deem “progress” and “modernity:” mainly, the preparations for hosting the FIFA World Cup and next World Olympics. To the Turkish, a green space to relax and connect with nature and friends is more important than another mindless shopping mall (among other things); to Brazilians, even the pride associated with hosting the beloved FIFA World Cup and Olympics cannot suppress their ire over a collapsing public-utilities sector, nor the fact that entire neighborhoods are being demolished to make way for shiny new stadiums for these temporary events.
I’m pretty sure that World Leaders everywhere are tired, but at the same time intensely terrified, at the mention of protests. Protests, particularly in the Western world, normally don’t call for a leader to step down nor for overthrowing the government, nor are they taken seriously. Protests in either developing or more authoritarian countries are worrisome for their nation’s leaders, for they often represent regime change and overhall. I’m sure the readers of this blog are equally tired of hearing me discuss protests! But, although I myself personally am not moved to march down a street protesting and carrying a sign (I prefer to protest here on my blogs), the protests fascinate me because the-duh, you’re probably saying-99% is taking a stand. If I was a Brazilian, I’d be pretty angry too if I found out that the government had spent more than $14 billion in constructing new facilities for sporting events but couldn’t even provide basic public services. Likewise, police spraying water cannons and wielding batons during a funeral march for the 4 people who have died in the Turkish protests would make me equally apprehensive and angry if I were a Turk.
France, Spain, Italy et al. were protesting long before street protesting was ever en vogue, but it was the Arab Spring protests that ushered in 2011 (and are still going) that melded new technologies and the new phenomenon of publicly stating one’s ideas and emotions that got the ball rolling. Add numerous other protests, whether sustainable or short-lived: Britain’s mad rioting in l’ete 2011. Occupy Wall Street in fall 2011 (which led to #Occupy movements throughout the United States as well as Europe). Chilean protests from 2011-present, as well as Spain’s. Turkey. Brazil. Protesting has taken on a whole new significance in the 2010’s, and that’s why I deem them the Decade of Protests. Voicing our minds in public has never been easier, regardless of whether other’s want to hear them or not.
Governments that do not listen to their people and leaders who do anything to stay in power should not be en vogue. The people have grabbed the microphone, and they will easily outdrone the government. It cannot be denied: the Decade of Protests will continue, and it will change how our world works.
Will # Ocupy Gezi Park and the Brazilian protests achieve their goals (which now include the resignation/impeachment of both heads of state)?
A protest can end in 3 ways: it can dissolve, i.e. the protesters abandon the “mission” (for various reasons); two, the government can choose to acquiesce the requests or three, the protesters turn into full-scale violence and war. #Occupy Wall Street succumbed to the first reason; Egypt managed to eek out a “victory” thanks to reason no. 2 and Libya and Syria escalated into full-out civil wars, with the situation in Syria obviously still unresolved.
“The same game is now being played over Brazil,” Tayyip Erdogan is quoted by CBS as saying. “The symbols are the same, the posters are the same, Twitter, Facebook are the same, the international media is the same. They (the protests) are being led from the same center….. It’s the same game, the same trap, the same aim.”
Well yeah, it’s the same game: the general public (not just poor people!) is protesting because their respective governments (and capitalistic society at large) do not care about them! The aim-to achieve rights and equality-is of course the same; besides those in power, who doesn’t want equality and justice? This is no international scheme , it’s democracy at work.