Just a quick muse on the (massive) protests underway in Ukraine. The last few years has seen two fascinating, but weirdly parallel trends.
- Discrediting of power elites in “developed” countries like the US & Europe. Mostly a result of post-crisis anger and growing awareness of inequalities.
- Discrediting of power elites in “emerging” countries (Ukraine, Brazil, Arab Spring, various Asian countries). Mostly a result of a desire for better governance in emulation of the “developed” countries (see above).
What both trends share is a sharp, urgent demand for something usually seen as an inherently “moderate” goal – decent governance. This is new. And weird.
We are used to people in the streets demanding a New Jerusalem. Fascists on the right, communists on the left, or some radically tinged variation around those poles. We also expect those movements to draw from some marginalized or out-of-favor element – reflecting their narrow grievances.
We are NOT used to seeing “the middle” out in the streets demanding nothing more radical but functional, fair government. But this has been the clear character of nearly every mass movement since the recent crisis. No-one is demanding Utopia. At the most extreme, they are asking for no more than a sort of idealized Sweden.
I find this profoundly hopeful. Mostly because those demands can (and should) be met. Also because the people doing the demanding have real influence. And their demands are clearly realistic and within the power of the elites to deliver.
We live in interesting times.