Aspate of large-scale street protests around the world, from Chile and Hong Kong to Lebanon and Barcelona, is fuelling a search for common denominators and collective causes. Are we entering a new age of global revolution? Or is it foolish to try to link anger in India over the price of onions to pro-democracy demonstrations in Russia?
Each country’s protests differ in detail. But recent upheavals do appear to share one key factor: youth. In most cases, younger people are at the forefront of calls for change. The uprising that unexpectedly swept away Sudan’s ancien regime this year was essentially generational in nature.
In one sense, this is unsurprising. Wordsworth expressed the eternal appeal of revolt for the young in The Prelude, a poem applauding the French Revolution. “Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, But to be young was very Heaven!” he declared. Wordsworth was 19 years old when the Bastille was stormed.
Yet while younger people, in any era, are predisposed to shake up the established order, extreme demographic, social and political imbalances are intensifying present-day pressures. It is as if the unprecedented environmental traumas experienced by the natural world are being matched by similarly exceptional stresses in human society.
There are more young people than ever before. About 41% of the global population of 7.7 billion is aged 24 or under. In Africa, 41% is under 15. In Asia and Latin America (where 65% of the world’s people live), it’s 25%. In developed countries, imbalances tilt the other way. While 16% of Europeans are under 15, about 18%, double the world average, are over 65.
Paris (AFP) – The past weeks have seen a wave of often unprecedented protest movements erupt in countries around the world.
Here is an overview of the main ones that started this month and others that are continuing.
– Bolivia –
When? Since October 21.
Trigger? The disputed results of the October 20 presidential election which gave outgoing leader Evo Morales almost outright victory for a fourth term.
State of play? There has been violence in several regions; a general strike was launched on October 23.
Toll? Several people have been injured in clashes between supporters and opponents of Morales.
– Chile –
When? Since October 18.
Trigger? An increase in the price of metro tickets in the capital.
State of play? President Sebastian Pinera suspended the price hike and then announced social measures such as increased pensions and lower electricity costs. But the protests spread, including complaints about living costs and social inequality. A general strike started on October 23.
Toll? 18 dead.
– Lebanon –
When? Since October 17.
Trigger? A proposed tax on calls made through messaging apps.
State of play? The government of Saad Hariri quickly axed the measure and announced emergency economic reforms. But the protests have widened to demand the removal of the entire political class.
Toll? Peaceful protests, marked by several clashes, have paralysed the country but there have been no injuries.
– Guinea –
When? Since October 7.
Trigger? Accusations that President Alpha Conde is trying to circumvent a bar on a third term in office.
State of play? Thousands of people have joined a string of demonstrations organised by an alliance of opposition groups, the FNDC.
Toll? Around 10 protesters killed.
– Ecuador –
When? From October 1 to 13.
Trigger? The scrapping of fuel subsidies.
State of play? After 12 days of protests, President Lenin Moreno and the indigenous movement, which has spearheaded the demonstrations, reached an agreement under which the government reinstated fuel subsidies.
Toll? Eight killed and 1,340 injured.
* Transport protests worsen chaos in capital Santiago
* Week of protests has led to deaths, arrests, destruction
* President Pinera seeking to placate demonstrators
* Chile unrest adds to wave of street protests round world (Adds quotes, details from protests)
Barcelona (AFP) – Around 350,000 people rallied in downtown Barcelona on Saturday, turning the streets into a sea of independence flags in the latest mass protest against Spain’s jailing of nine separatist leaders.
The turnout figure was given by the local police as vast crowds packed into a wide avenue running between the waterfront and the city’s towering Sagrada Familia basilica, which was closed to visitors.
BAGHDAD (AP) — Tens of thousands of people, many of them young and unemployed men, thronged public squares and blocked main streets Friday in the capitals of Iraq and Lebanon in unprecedented, spontaneous anti-government revolts in two countries scarred by long conflicts.
Demonstrators in Iraq were beaten back by police firing live ammunition and tear gas, and officials said 30 people were killed in a fresh wave of unrest that has left 179 civilians dead this month. In Lebanon, scuffles between rival political groups broke out at a protest camp, threatening to undermine an otherwise united civil disobedience campaign now in its ninth day.