Sofia is exploding. For more than 40 days now, tens of thousands of primarily young middle-class protesters have been venting their outrage with a political system seen as irreparably corrupt. Day after day, the youth have been on the streets relentlessly calling for the termination of a government under 100 days old.
All across the Balkans – from Istanbul to Sofia and Sarajevo – young people are taking a stand. These rebellions were all triggered by relatively small, local issues but then blew up into full-fledged insurrections against deeper issues – systemic corruption, paralyzed government, elite puppet-like leaders and faux democracies.
A new generation of gutsy rabble-rousers are taking to the streets, spurred by the realization that they have everything to lose should they not. Until now, middle-class youth were notorious for being too comfortable to resist. But now, they are mobilized, angry and ready for action. This new politicized generation is young, articulate, informed, curious, cunning and connected. They simply won’t be silenced… not by police brutality, not by sneaky night raids, not by meager tweaks to policy implemented only to placate them... and not by fear.
Middle-class idleness is giving way to middle-class rage. Faiola and Moura from the Washington Post have coined the last few months as the “summer of middle class discontent.” While the mainstream media pundits continue to present the recent uprisings in Istanbul, Turkey, Sarajevo and Sofia as a coincidental confluence of protests in countries with nothing in common … the rest of us know that there is something bigger going on here, a deeper cord of global indignation is being struck. “If the 1960s were about breaking cultural norms and protesting foreign wars, and the 1990s about railing against globalization,” Faiola and Moura state, “then the 2010s are a clamor for responsive government, as well as social and economic freedom.”
2013 is a year for the history books so far! Former CIA analyst Paul Pillar jokes that hundreds of doctoral dissertations will be written this year and next, analyzing the various global uprisings and their root causes. And while it seems that Brazil, Turkey, Sofia, Chile, Kosovo, Yemen – and the tens of other places where insurgencies are surfacing – each have their own local issues to work out, no one can shrug off the myriad international uprisings of 2013 as isolated, unconnected incidents of discontent.
Protests are happening in Bangkok, Brussels, Pakistan, Afghanistan, South Africa, Moscow, Prague, Greece, Sri Lanka, Cambodia and Bangladesh – but what will they all add up too? Is this but sound and fury, signifying nothing … or are we living through the first waves of a truly Global Spring?