Social Change: Blowing in the wind?

People around the world are mad as hell. And some of them, at least, won't take it anymore. Tyrants -- and oligarchs -- beware!

If you had told me a few months ago that thousands of people would take to the streets to complain about our political system,I would have found it hard to believe, because it looked like we were an apathetic generation that was incapable of responding to a crisis even when it was destroying our jobs like a tsunami.the message has surely gone through to politicians that they can't just keep ignoring our frustrations and pretend that nothing has changed. -- María Subinas, a participant in demonstrations in Madrid's Puerta del Sol anti-austerity movement (Spain's governing party suffers heavy losses - New York Times 2011-05-23)

In Budapest in April, I happened on a remarkable demonstration by tens of thousands of trade unionists and socialists protesting the austerity budgets being imposed on European Union member states by the financial interests controlling the region's economies. Marching along Andrassy from Heroes' Square to a demonstration and speechifying at the Octagon, protestors from all over the EU sang, shouted, waved banners, banged drums, and deployed noise makers (including remarkably effective vuvuzelas) to decry government austerity plans that will worsen job loss and lower wages, weaken labor standards, and result in greater social inequality. To a visitor from the United States, where the most knowledgeable and engaged political expression of late has involved voting for the next American Idol, the demands for economic and social justice were a heartening reminder that the struggle for a fairer, more democratic social system is not happening in isolation. The quote above from the protestor in Madrid could have come as easily this spring from the streets of Madison or Columbus, of Sidi Bouzid or Cairo or Deraa, of Reykjavik or Athens. The forces of social reform, on the defensive for four decades, are showing renewed vigor across the globe. 2011 is shaping up to be the new 1968. Will the outcome this time be different?

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