Maybe Occupy was too successful a brand in that it sometimes disguised how much this movement was part of popular surges going on around the world: the Arab Spring(including the three successful revolutions, the ongoing Syrian civil war, uprisings in Yemen, and more); the student uprisings in Montreal, Mexico, and Chile that have continued to develop and broaden; the economic revolts in Spain, Greece, and Britain; the ongoing demonstrations and insurrections around Africa; even various acts of resistance in India, Japan, China, and Tibet, some large and powerful. Because, in case you hadn’t noticed, these days a lot of the world is in some form of rebellion, insurrection, or protest.
And the family resemblances matter. If you add them all up, you see a similar fury at greed, political corruption, economic inequality, environmental devastation, and a dimming, shrinking future.
“People learned how direct democracy works; they tasted power; they found something in common with strangers; they lived in public. All those things mattered and matter still. They are a great foundation for the future; they are a great way to live in the present.”
“The only thing the monarchy has been fighting is the people of Bahrain and their quest for democracy and human rights. It is the monarchy’s eagerness to tear at the fabric of Bahraini society to maintain its stranglehold on power that has fueled unrest. It is the monarchy’s unwillingness to share power democratically and tolerate dissent that has always been the central grievance of the people.”
Squares are famously potent political theatres. This year is a second showing for Ukraine’s revolution, and a third for Egypt’s. Western TV viewers have cheered them all on. We thrill to see young people hurling rocks at power. Fire, smoke, bloodstained flags, broken heads, water, gas and sinister paramilitaries are Les Misérables for slow learners. We can sit with a front seat in the auditorium of history. It beats polling booths any day.
The lesson of Egypt for Ukraine is that defiant crowds may destroy an old regime – but they seldom build a new one.
Tahrir and Maidan squares thus join Istanbul’s Taksim, Tehran’s Azadi, Beijing’s Tiananmen, Prague’s Wenceslaus, Athens’s Syntagma, London’s Trafalgar and a dozen other urban spaces the world over as icons of modern revolutionary politics. Their furniture is the barricade, their tipple the Molotov cocktail, their tonic the tear gas canister. They gather people in their thousands to sacred forums and invite the world to witness the latest trial of strength with a supposedly oppressive regime. Sometimes they even win.
"I would like to ask: does anyone know the opening times of the Kasr el-Eini crossing?" Hanan Hagag, a journalist, quipped on her Facebook page, likening the barrier to Egypt’s heavily guarded border crossing with the Gaza Strip.
The sentiment points to the turmoil still facing Egypt. Street protests that often turn violent and militant attacks have become commonplace since Mursi was removed after mass protests against his rule in Tahrir and elsewhere.
While other arteries into Tahrir are generally open to traffic, security forces do close them off from time to time using barbed wire coils, typically ahead of anticipated protests.
But because of its look of permanence, the imposing metal gate across Kasr el-Eini is especially offensive to democracy advocates in the Arab world’s largest country.
The Kasr el-Eini entrance is the nearest on Tahrir to public buildings including parliament and government offices.
“They were talking about turning Tahrir into a museum, a place of celebration,” said Khaled Dawoud, spokesman for the liberal Dustour Party. “Instead they are installing these ugly iron gates and trying to prevent and ban demonstrations in Tahrir Square itself.”
Ruweida Omar, a rights activist, said: “We had hope that one day the concrete barriers would be removed. The iron barricade has taken away that hope. When I saw the gate, I really thought that we were living under siege.”
So much for a winter of discontent. The etiolated state of the British left in 2013 gives us no right to expect any such climax. All the seasonal metaphors – red-hot autumns, summers of rage, even democratic springs – have eluded us.
Why is the landscape so bleak? In 2011, things looked different. The election of a Tory-led government in the UK and a spate of Tea Party Republicans in the US initiated a sequence of austerity programmes – prompting direct conflicts between governments and organised workers. And this seemed to fuse with a heterogeneous series of global struggles, from Middle East revolutions to strike action in Greece to the indignados in Spain and the Occupy movement.
The way the United States government works and how they prioritize is far, far more prevalent now in the light of the government shutdown than in any other time of recent history.
With the U.S. pursuing intrusive surveillance and covert or clandestine actions among other doings that violate both civil liberties and international laws, one can see the government is continuing to invest much more money on these programs than on others by looking at the budget changes in the government shutdown now in its tenth day. Anyone can see that pay for hundreds of thousands were ceased, educational programs were halted and health, nutritional and food-safety programs also were suspended. Pre-government shutdown, the wrongs of the government were not as seen by many but they are now more visible and people are hurting.
The United States is a representative democracy, which means that this was all done under the people’s government. Is the current gov’t representative? Are they serving the needs of the nation? And any democracy that abides by the definition of a democracy has the power placed in the people’s hands. Democracy instills people power. Why isn’t there any noise being made?
“Living in a civilized country means you don’t have to poop in a ditch, you don’t have to fetch water from the well and firewood from the forest, and you don’t have to share details of your personal life. It is a huge gift of civilization that behind your front door you need not care what people think about how you dress, how you sleep, or how you cook. And that when communicating with friends and colleagues and loved ones, you need not care what anyone thinks unless you’ve invited them to the conversation. Privacy doesn’t need any more justification. It’s a quality-of-life thing and needs no further defense. We and generations of ancestors have worked hard to build a civilized society and one of the rewards is that often, we can relax and just be our private selves. So we should resist anyone who wants to take that away.”
In Arabic, she recites a poem favored by father who is also another activist in custody in Bahrain and then dedicated the message “to the brave people of Bahrain who I miss greatly, and to all freedom-loving people of the world.” She translates the poem into English, “If one day, the people desire to live, then fate will answer their calls, and the night will begin to fade away, and their chains to break and fall.”