Mass demonstrations are sweeping Brazil as the Turkish prime minister appears ready to call in the army to bring a violent end to protests in that country. The Arab Spring began in the wheat fields of Russia and the Ukraine in 2008, when both countries embargoed exports due to extreme drought conditions and plummeting crop yields. Across the middle east, the price of wheat based products immediately skyrocketed. Now, in 2013, the region remains in turmoil. Turkey and now Brazil have become the next countries to experience powerful demonstrations, Turkey when Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that one of the last public spaces in the center of Istanbul would be handed over to developers. This sparked two weeks of revolt which, as of yesterday, had declined into a silent but dramatic ‘standing man’ protest in the square, with hundreds of people following the lead of a young man who stood in silence staring at a portrait of modern Turkey’s founder Kemal Ataturk. Police eventually arrived and took the silent protesters away in vans. At present, the government is considering calling out the army to end the protests once and for all. Like the other demonstrations, the Turkish protest was organized using social media, and Turkey now plans curbs on the availability of Twitter, FaceBook and others.
In Brazil, a small protest over an increase in bus fares has led to nationwide protests against government corruption in general, and perceived official indifference to the needs and demands of the people. Protest has spread across the country like wildfire, as people outraged over such things as huge stadium projects being built at taxpayer expense and the high cost of living. As elsewhere, social media fueled the protests, galvanizing people to take to the streets. Their anger was intensified by videos of police brutality that appeared from around the country.
In the United States, while no street protests are expected, the Obama Administration’s approval ratings have literally fallen off a cliff in the wake of revelations about mass spying on the American people in apparent open contravention of the Fourth Amendment, and suspicion that the Administration was using the IRS as a political weapon against groups it perceived to be against its policies, a practice that has been common in the US since at least the Nixon Administration, but has only recently begun to come to light.
High prices, disrupted food supplies, high-handed government actions and a sense that leadership around the world is ceasing to be concerned about the well being of ordinary citizens, is fueling the anger that is leading to the protests. In the US, frustration is building as a public perception grows that the two political parties are essentially the same, and that the real divide is not between Republicans and Democrats, but between Washington insiders, their wealthy sponsors, and the rest of the population, whose interests they do not serve.