While the Jasmine Revolution that swept the Arab world at the beginning of this year, the protests in Israel over high housing costs and the street protests in London do not seem to be connected geopolitically or in terms of their demands, the current Occupy Wall Street protest has finally outlined the deep-seated political and economic background factors that these issues all share.
The harm to local economic life in many countries and to the current age in general caused by the dominance of economic globalization over the past 20 years can no longer be covered up. This is only the prelude to the real social backlash.
The globalized economy operates on the principle of benefiting a small group of “winners,” while hurting the other 99 percent of society who make up the “losers.” The idea of the globalized economy is based on hypnotizing people into believing how great globalization and the knowledge-based economy are and making them believe they will be losers if they do not join it.
People who have joined the party too late to become part of the group of winners should do everything they can to ensure their children get into a good school and gain a head start in the race to join the group.
The education system should follow the principle that the user pays in order to maintain efficiency. So the younger generation who have accepted the value and logic of globalization and have worked hard to get into limited places at university, taking on heavy student loans in the process, often find after graduating they are either unable to find a job or they get a job that merely keeps them one of the working poor with just enough money to get by. For these people, buying a house and having children are simply out of the question.
However, poverty alone will not necessarily meet the criteria necessary to set off a revolution. Those who have a hard time making a living often blame themselves for not trying hard enough, but on closer inspection, they will see that the real reason for their hardship is that government policy is slanted in favor of corporations and the rich. They will also see that blindly believing in the free market results in a lack of freedom for 99 percent of people. This will anger some of them, who will begin to link up with each other using new forms of communication.
Under such circumstances, there is no need for leaders, a political party or clear goals. All that is necessary is for the movement to strike a resonance deep within our hearts and this will cause people will to move away from Facebook, where they have no real identity, and join together at protests to fight injustice as a united group.
Such examples do not only include the Jasmine Revolution and Wall Street — the protests in Jhunan Township’s (竹南) Dapu Village (大埔), Miaoli County, that occurred last year also clearly demonstrate how such movements are started in the Internet age. They not only transcend nations; they also transcend party politics and are directed straight at the core of social justice.
C.J. Wu is a researcher at the Taiwan Thinktank.
TRANSLATED BY DREW CAMERON