Students have been blocking the streets, donning masks, brandishing banners, and going toe to toe with police. Sound familiar? It’s been happening almost daily in Europe for the last year and half.
Today in Greece dozens of students blocked a major avenue in central Athens, causing motorists to be delayed and tempers to erupt. It’s become routine, almost, for Athens, which has seen a large-scale people’s movement flaring since May 5th of last year. Keep in mind, Greece is the birthplace of democracy.
The movement in Greece, which includes demonstrations, strike action, sit-ins, occupations, civil disobedience and, in some cases, rioting, is escalating precisely because the situation is worsening. They do not have a single message; they have shed that constraint.
In Greece, the movement’s participants have been met with police brutality, according to BBC, New York Times, Amnesty International, CNN, and a host of others, just like OWS participants and others around the country will surely continue to be kettled, pepper-sprayed and likely worse.
Reports from Greece read like those of a bleak American future if our problems go uncorrected. From AP:
Several rounds of spending cuts and tax hikes have cut deep into the incomes of average Greeks as the country struggles through its third year of recession, with the economy projected to contract 5.5 percent of gross domestic product this year. Unemployment has spiraled to above 16 percent, with the young most severely affected.
Among the Greek direct actors are desolate students whose loans are unfeasible, dejected families whose taxes keep increasing, in part because of evasion, disquieted citizens who see corruption in government, and those who cannot stand for impossibly large bailouts. Again, sound familiar?
Their causes are diverse, as are the people, which works for them, and can work for Occupy movements, too. The point is to speak out, be heard, and shed frustration in public, where the powers that be can digest it, where police can misbehave: that is part of the non-violent strategy’s power.
The moral high-ground is a tenuous place, but once one reaches it history is on your side.
The situation in Greece is different, but related. The European Union’s struggle against default is being caused by a precarious linking of economies that experts have been warning for years would cause trouble.
For years, experts warned that a debt crisis in America was bound to happen. Warnings against credit default swaps and the over the counter derivative market fell on deaf ears until it was too late.
Both societies failed to correct the problem before calamity occurred, and both have yet to fix it. In the U.S. we still have not successfully eliminated credit default swaps, and the derivative market is still at play, and as hazardous as ever.
Those are two huge problems.
The movement that Occupy Wall Street has promulgated didn’t begin in Zuccotti Park. It has been happening for years, and it’s finally catching on. Demonstrations held at the Republican National Convention in 2008, and at G8 summits for at least a decade, have echoed the same general demands: the leaders have lost sight of the people, the environment, the point of war.
These instances, however, failed to become strong national movements. That is where OWS has succeeded, and continues to succeed. It’s going to take longer than three weeks, though. That’s where Occupy Wall Street is at right now, and for every day there is another person to stand up for, another reason to let the people’s voices be heard.
I quoted it before, but you can never have enough Mark Twain: “Temper is what gets most of us into trouble. Pride is what keeps us there.”
The world isn’t fair, just, or verdant. Nothing we can do will change that. But whether you’re in Barcelona, New York, London, Athens, Milan, Cairo, Tokyo, or the myriad cities who have it worse off than these relatively well-off places but rarely get any attention, it’s up to each individual to say something. For a long time the world has been shaving off the bottom 99%.
It’s about damn time we got together. That is why, after years, we are standing up.