2011 from the Arab Spring to the American Winter

Demonstrators with

The demonstrations on Wall Street are interesting – they are interesting because they look and sound so much like the demonstrations in Egypt, Tunisia or Syria – minus the violence and a dictatorship.  The American demonstrators, like their Arab counterparts, are protesting against unemployment, corporate greed and the role of financial institutions in the economic crisis.   Actually, they also sound a lot like the demonstrators in Israel too – middle class, educated people protesting against a society that no longer gives them access to the “grand dream” and gives someone else an unfair share of that same dream.   The Wall Street demonstrations are three weeks old and now they have expanded to Chicago, Los Angeles and Boston; organizers say demonstrations are planned in other cities in coming weeks.  Apparently, like the Egyptian demonstrations, social media is the prime organizing tool – the way in which the organizers reach out to the discontented and invite them into the streets to protest.  As spring is long gone and winter is nearly here – if the movement gains much momentum this year it will have to be called the American Winter, which has a very different and very chilly connotation.

Is the Occupy Wall Street campaign just a copycat version of the events in the Middle East or do the demonstrators have a real cause and a deep commitment?  Would there have ever been such a movement without the Arab Spring?  Possibly, but that may prove to be an impossible question to answer.  After just three weeks it is difficult to predict if the demonstrations will continue – will there be more arrests – might there be some violence – or will it all just wither in the cold of winter?  The world press is watching – wondering if under the surface of the American society there is as much discontent as there is in the Arab world or in some sections of London.  Is there?  I don’t know, but with all of the media attention that has been given to social discontent this year, why would we not think it would happen here?  2011 is certainly proving itself to be unique; 2011 maybe a tipping point, a point of true change in the history of many countries, possibly even the world.  Or it may turn out to have been just a year of turmoil.  That answer is a long way down the road. Whatever the answer, 2011 is unlike any year in a long time.



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