Why are so many people protesting?

Md Sharif Hasan
Published : 22:06, Nov 01, 2019 | Updated : 22:34, Nov 01, 2019

Md. Sharif HasanProtests in different parts of the world appear to be growing. People around the globe are increasingly expressing discontent with their respective governments’ policies. There is dissimilarity in regard to issues ---but they share a common theme at their core: corruption, injustice, climate change and human rights.
It has been a decade of protest. In 2011, protests kicked off on a big scale not just in the Arab world but also against anti-austerity protests in Greece, in Britain over pensions and the occupy movement in Spain. So, that was quite a big start but it has continued since then.
It cannot be denied that what we have here is a deficit of trust. People do no longer trust their government. People are no longer certain that whatever government is doing on their behalf is for their good. And, that is one of the reasons why people are coming out in the street. So, the tipping point is when people realize that they have to take things into their own hands to make the change that leads to a transformation. That’s exactly what we’re witnessing from Hong Kong to Ecuador, from Arab Spring to what’s happening now in Chile. There’s not only a deficit of trust in governments but people also feel that they can bring about that transformation. They believe in their own power. After all, the community spirit has propelled these movements to the forefront ----something the people of the world have been witnessing in the last decade or so.
As it stands today, extremism or radicalism is becoming more mainstream. It becomes a more normal behaviour for many people to adopt who perhaps in the past would not have considered it. And, this is because some of the existing arrangements, for example, the economic policies in all parts of the World are seen as failing. Analysts contend that getting organized as a crowd starts to change the consciousness of those people involved. In Hong Kong, trouble began as a protest simply about a threatened dangerous extradition law but now many of the young people are talking about a revolution needed in Hong Kong. They’ve really expanded their demands and that’s come out of their experience of fighting together on the streets and organizing their actions together as well.
Apparently, there’s often a tendency to find a middle path which allows some degree of compromise. Because, initially protestors are often worried about alienating a passive majority that hasn’t joined in the street protests, whose support they want at least passively. So, initially, there’s some pressure towards moderation. But, as protests become sustained they grow in momentum potentially, more people join and they feel those moderate options don’t really work.
It appears that a rebellious movement has been popping up all over the globe at the moment against climate changes. That’s a recognition that there’s very little faith in any institutional capacity to deliver reforms or even if they’re capable, there is no willingness to deliver reform. And, therefore, only through the people acting and demonstrating in powerful ways that pressure can be brought to bear, they believe.
Climate protesters hold placards in front of HM Treasury in Westminster during the Extinction Rebellion protest in London, Britain April 25, 2019. REUTERSIn most authoritarian settings, what prompts fissures to develop within the military and security apparatus is really a critical mass of demonstrators in a capital city. If it happens in a provincial town or if it’s a small protest in a capital city it doesn’t really threaten the regime. But, if a critical mass of people in the capital city demonstrates, then there are doubts among members of the military and the security apparatus whether the regime is going to survive. Then, they start to consider the possibility that they need not obey orders. Once officers of the military and security apparatus start to wonder whether they should obey orders, they render themselves open to the possibility of rebellion. And, when the rebellion starts ultimately, the worst outcome is a civil war between loyalists and rebels.
The bottom line? Income inequality is having a very significant effect on most societies because it’s unavoidable. It’s not just the sense of injustice that comes from seeing the gap getting bigger and bigger between the richer and the poorer. For example, so many public services that people rely upon are continually being privatized or plans are afoot to privatize them. People may think 'Well, I would rather just continue with my life as it is and not protest' but they find that avenue is constantly cut-off ---to take only one example, think of the degradation in the facilities of the hospitals.
Certainly, in the British case, it’s the degradation of so many of other aspects of public services through austerity which created the bitterness which in the end came out in the vote to leave the EU in the 2016 referendum and all the kind of political shockwaves that have continued in the country since then.
Md. Sharif Hasan is a faculty at the Department of International Relations, University of Rajshahi.

***The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the opinions and views of Bangla Tribune.