The Whole World Is Rioting as the Economic Crisis Worsens -- Why Aren't We?
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Explosive anger is spilling out onto the streets of Europe. The meltdown of the global economy is igniting massive social unrest in a region that has long been a symbol of political stability and social cohesion.
It's not a new trend: A wave of upheaval is spreading from the poorer countries on the periphery of the global economy to the prosperous core.
Over the past few years, a series of riots spread across what is patronizingly known as the Third World. Furious mobs have raged against skyrocketing food and energy prices, stagnating wages and unemployment in India, Senegal, Yemen, Indonesia, Morocco, Cameroon, Brazil, Panama, the Philippines, Egypt, Mexico and elsewhere.
For the most part, those living in wealthier countries took little notice. But now, with the global economy crashing down around us, people in even the wealthiest nations are mad as hell and reacting violently to what they view as an inadequate response to their tumbling economies.
The Telegraph (UK) warned last month that protests over governments' handling of the crisis "are widespread and gathering pace," and "may spark a new revolution":
A depression triggered in America is being played out in Europe with increasing violence, and other forms of social unrest are spreading. In Iceland, a government has fallen. Workers have marched in Zaragoza, as Spanish unemployment heads towards 20 percent. There have been riots and bloodshed in Greece, protests in Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary and Bulgaria. The police have suppressed public discontent in Russia and will be challenged again at large gatherings this weekend.
Consider a snapshot of a single week of unrest, courtesy of the Guardian:
- Greece: "There are many wellsprings of the serial protests rolling across Europe. In Athens, it was students and young people who suddenly mobilized to turn parts of the city into no-go areas. They were sick of the lack of jobs and prospects, the failings of the education system and seized with pessimism over their future.
"This week it was the farmers' turn, rolling their tractors out to block the motorways, main road and border crossings across the Balkans to try to obtain better procurement prices for their produce."
- Latvia: "The old Baltic trading city had seen nothing like it since the happy days of kicking out the Russians and overthrowing communism two decades ago. More than 10,000 people converged on the 13th century cathedral to show the Latvian government what they thought of its efforts at containing the economic crisis. The peaceful protest morphed into a late-night rampage as a minority headed for the parliament, battled with riot police and trashed parts of the old city. The following day, there were similar scenes in Vilnius, the Lithuanian capital next door."
- France: "Burned-out cars, masked youths, smashed shop windows and more than a million striking workers. The scenes from France are familiar, but not so familiar to President Nicolas Sarkozy, confronting the first big wave of industrial unrest of his time in the Elysée Palace.
"France, meanwhile, is moving into recession, and unemployment is going up. The latest jobless figures were to have been released yesterday, but were held back, apparently for fear of inflaming the protests."
- Iceland: "Proud of its status as one of the world's most developed, most productive and most equal societies, Iceland is in the throes of what is, by its staid standards, a revolution.
"Riot police in Reykjavik, the coolest of capitals. Building bonfires in front of the world's oldest parliament. The yogurt flying at the free market men who have run the country for decades and brought it to its knees."