Editor’s Note: This was originally published in the October 23 edition of CNN’s Meanwhile in America, the daily email about US politics for global readers. Sign up here to receive it every weekday morning.
Fires burn on shut-down boulevards, protestors throw rocks and bottles, armor-clad security forces advance. A wave of civil disobedience is bursting out all over the globe.
Fury over economic inequality, price hikes and corruption keeps blowing its lid in Ecuador, France, Chile and Lebanon. In Hong Kong and Catalonia, demonstrators demand political freedoms. In the UK, marches against Brexit squeeze through streets in between protests for action on climate change, with brethren in North America, Europe and Australasia.
The spark usually starts small, before enflaming popular anger. In Chile, protests began with a hike in subway fares. In Lebanon, a tax on WhatsApp calls kicked things off. But in both cases, deeper economic issues are fueling the fire. Meanwhile, Hong Kong’s demonstrations – perhaps the most flagrant challenge to China’s Communist party since Tiananmen Square – began with anger over a legislative proposal that has since been retracted.
Across time zones, class and race, people are saying their governments do not serve their interests. Their fury creates the kind of fetid political climates that strongmen and the enemies of open government can exploit. Previous backlashes against the powerful saw Britain vote to leave the EU and Americans to elect Trump.
Political systems are being torn at all over the world – often by the norm busting leaders that populist dissent has produced. The big political question of the coming years may be whether protestors marching for change can make governments more responsive to their needs.