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Beyond the Arab Spring: Global Protests Against the Status Quo

October 4, 2011

One of the hundreds of protest images on the TRAP Facebook community page

As I work on updates to the textbook International Studies: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Global Issues I found myself writing on the current global economic crisis, summarizing the interconnected effects recessions, bank failures and debt crises in different parts of the world have on one another. I can’t predict the ultimate outcomes, of course–that will have to wait for the next edition, presumably another four years down the road.

What I end my account of the crisis with are the waves of protests against the intersections of governments and large corporations that have been sweeping the world in the last two years, after most national recessions have technically ended.

Another image from TRAP

Besides the Arab Spring, we have had the Greek riots, beginning in 2008 over the death of a student at the hands of the police and continuing through this year as the government introduces ever greater austerity packages. In 2009 we had the G-20 Summit protests in London and the international May Day protests a month later.

Last year saw both riots and anti-austerity protests in London, anti-government protests in Thailand, and thousands of strikes and protests in China. So far this year we’ve seen not only the Arab Spring but protests against union busting in Wisconsin and Ohio, and now the “Occupy Wall Street” protests that have spread from New York to cities around the country.

As I blogged in response to a student question last year, most of these protests are not inspired by the Arab Spring in a causal sense–they have different proximal causes–but they are similarly rooted in economic downturns and a conviction that the existing political economic situation is unfair, unjust, and unsustainable.  Like the Egyptians, they make cool new uses of social media.

And they draw inspiration from the astonishing successes of Tahrir Square.

Most of these protests aren’t about any one issue but lots of issues–rising prices, unemployment, environmental degradation, political hypocrisy and anger at giant corporations showing huge profits as middle class and working class families see their lifestyles decay.

Another image from TRAP

In that vein, one of my colleagues in Egypt sent me the link to a fascinating Facebook page: TRAP-The Real Art of Protest, which literally celebrates protest against the status quo in general, especially the military-industrial complex(es), without supporting any particular ideology.

One Comment leave one →
  1. May 22, 2012 2:32 am

    Now now dude, replies like that won’t make the wrsteen world take people from the middle east seriously. These are different times, different rules. I’m better than you just doesn’t work. Without a sense of dignity, a little less extremism, the middle east may begin finally begin to enter through wrsteen doors, but not unless there’s hatred and dangerous thought like that on every Muslim. The west just won’t do business with people like that.

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