There is a dichotomy about what feeds protest movements. The hardships experienced when the government fails to act in the interests of people and the feelings of success when it does respond both motivate people to take action. Even small successes are something to build on, as happened this week.
In Ohio, where activists have been seeking to stop hydrofracking for more than a year, two major oil and gas companies dropped out of fracking in the Delaware River Basin. It was a significant victory, and the reaction is what we would expect -- "it certainly doesn't stop there!" In Oregon where students have been fighting tuition increases and college debt, the legislature passed a law that could solve the problem and cut the banks out of the process. The result, no doubt, students in other states will push for similar laws. And, in Richmond, CA, the city has done what housing activists have been pushing for across the country -- getting the local government to use its eminent domain power to seize underwater houses threatened with foreclosure and re-finance them. What will happen? If it works, activists will push cities across the country to do the same.
Movements are also fed by the corruption and dysfunction of the government and economy that creates widespread economic insecurity for people. The push by transnational corporations and governments for neoliberal economics is expanding a massive wealth divide that creates misery for most people. Worldwide it means that the 300 wealthiest have wealth equal to 3 billion people; in the US the 100 wealthiest have the wealth of 165 million Americans. This has been at the heart of protests in the US and around the world.
While governments have tried to shut down the voices of dissent by criminalizing their behavior and with aggressive law enforcement, such clamp downs increase the pressure, which can only be relieved by addressing the problems created by a failing economy.
Writer Chris Hedges points out that one of the keys to resistance is facing reality -- understanding how dire the situation is and deciding to fight against it. It is becoming harder to avoid reality as whistleblowers reveal the truth and as the impact of legislation hits home. More Americans are going to feel the pain of poverty as the government cuts back on programs that alleviate hunger -- programs that have worked for decades.
And, the deep corruption becomes more evident. This week it was reported that two of Obama's former top aides are now working for TransCanada pushing tar sands pipelines that create major environmental risks to the bread basket of America, Alaska and climate change.
As a result of all of this the call for transformation continues to grow. We see week by week actions taken on a wide range of issues throughout the United States and world. When the next national wave will rise is impossible to predict but it is building. Anonymous made a call for nationwide protests on November 5th, The Lion Sleeps No More, against the abuses of government. Will that be a moment? Time will tell.
But, more people are seeing that the impact of civil resistance on government abuse -- whether a dictatorship or democracy -- is significant. Governments are being reshaped by mass popular resistance because they have been unable to respond to problems without the pressure of the people.
As we noted at the outset, like dandelions, the seeds of rebellion are being sown around the world. It is in small social movements where these seeds begin to take hold. And, as these movements grow, they become a power unto themselves that can reshape nations. The roots of rebellion are in social movements and governments should pay heed because "With technological advancements and opportune conjunctures, the underdogs of yesterday can quickly turn into the makers of tomorrow."
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