Recently, a pandemic of civilian demonstrations, riots and all out mass uprisings have dotted the globe. Since last December, there has been a wave of demonstrations in the Arab world now known as the Arab Spring, a term used to include everything from revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, the collapse of the Libyan government and political unrest in Syria and Yemen to the major protests throughout the Middle East including Israel, Iraq, Algeria and Jordan. And that’s not even a complete list. While those areas of the world have had a long history of political instability and conflict, they are not the only countries experiencing a backlash of public discontent. Riots and demonstrations are an important symptom of government misrepresentation and corporate greed in the Western world as well.
Embers from the London riots are still smoldering as Anti-Wall Street protests in New York City, USA spread to Boston, Los Angeles and other cities. The demonstrators of the movement, cleverly termed ‘Occupy Wall Street’, voice similar grievances against misguided policies causing an unfair distribution of wealth. However, there are big differences in the way the American demonstrations are being carried out as compared to those that took place in London. The most notable are the absence of public vandalism and overt criminal behavior. Unfortunately, the relentless media coverage of the riots in London hardly gave a mention to the political grievances of the disenfranchised rioters but focused instead on the seemingly young age of the participants, dismissing their plight as sheer criminality. Perhaps if London rioters adopted a more peaceful, law-abiding and coherent approach to political activism, it would be more difficult for the media to portray them as punk kids more interested in stealing TVs than harsh budget cuts to the social welfare programs that help feed and educate them. Without the fires, overturned cars and smashed-up shops, the importance of dissent to democracy could be more clearly communicated.
Vocalizing feelings of disillusionment and frustration over the ineffectiveness of the US government in representing the best interest of the majority is the overarching message of the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ movement. Because of the way the grassroots movement has been organized, this message is central in most, albeit scarce, media coverage. Occurrences of ‘flash meditation mobs’ and overall goals of solidarity and non-violence have given the movement that started in a small pocket of New York City the momentum it needed to spread into other major US cities. Whether or not government reformations are resulting in more than 1% of the population controlling the majority of the wealth in the world, the importance of recession hits millions. Having an outlet for their political passions is paramount. The world seems to be telling us that whether revolting against a violently oppressive leader, deep funding cuts to government-run social welfare programs or a disproportionate corporate interest in policy making, large constituencies everywhere are desperately seeking something to rally around.