Thawing from the Winter of our Discontent

Will we see a Global Spring?


The war in Syria is killing 200 people a day. There's been no single arrest or prosecution of any senior Wall Street banker for the systemic fraud that precipitated the 2008 financial crisis. Pussy Riot are still in jail. Two years after the fall of Mubarak, and the uprisings in Cairo have intensified, with severe rape and death tolls.

Were the protests of 2011 but an ephemeral wave of sound and fury, signifying, and amounting to nothing? Or did something real and substantial kick-off in 2011, something that in fact has not diminished at all – something that might be most appropriately labelled a "revolution"? Will we see a Global Spring?

Paul Mason believes there has been an irreversible "change in consciousness" evident in the widespread and palatable intimation that "something big is possible; that a great change in the world's priorities is within people's grasp." A disdain for corporate capitalism is now felt in the bellies of millions of people. The youth whose futures are barred, if not stolen, from them are full of resentment, though not an unproductive kind. But rather a resentment that is the embodiment of a moral nerve, an emotion that is fueled by a thirst for justice above all.

Sociologist Manuel Castells argues that the social, political and historical changes which crystallized in 2011 were irrevocable, like the advent of electricity, and they "will condition all politics going forward". As Mason writes for the Guardian, "people [now] have a better understanding of power . . . they are clever to the point of expertise in knowing how to mess up hierarchies and see the various 'revolutions' in their lives as part of an 'exodus' from oppression, not – as previous generations did – as a 'diversion into the personal'."

One of the most enthralling elements from the past few years of burgeoning global-revolutionary spirit has been the memes that surfaced and circulated through the realm of our collective digital consciousness.

As Mason states so eloquently:

From Tahrir to Puerta del Sol, the most important thing about the slogans, images and gestures is not what they said in isolation but what they expressed cumulatively . . .

These were first of all signifiers of rejection: scorn not just for the elite world of yachts, diamond watches and bodyguards, but for the everyday world of corporate conformity.

Through these signs and symbols, large parts of humanity were signalling their solidarity to one another; their belief that a kinder, more human system is possible; and that it would be born out of the chaotic, ironic, playful qualities of human life – not by pitting one cruel hierarchy against another. And this is why all exhortations to "formulate demands", embrace structure, or turn to "everyday life" miss the point: the activists' unwillingness to engage is precisely what has allowed them, up to now, to disrupt the timetable of official politics."

But so far no protest has attained its aims. Is the period of coups still yet to come as it was with the 1848-51 French revolution? Are we seeing the revenge of the dinosaur regimes – in Egypt and elsewhere? Is there not a widespread fear that fascism and militarism could revive and conquer near and far? We are stuck in a widespread stagnation, America is doing everything in its power to avoid the consequences of its economic-political crisis. But amidst all this, the rumbling continues.

"Something fundamental has happened," Mason affirms, there has been a "shift in human consciousness and behaviour [that is] as momentous as that [historical shift] triggered by the arrival of mass consumption and mass culture in the 1900s." Though, the barriers protestors face have never been more obvious, as Mason himself recognizes, "their 'revolution' remains trapped at the phase of ideology, culture, political debate." But a turning point lies within reach, just ahead.

To read more about why the global protest movement, based on social networks, is here to stay, read Mason's full article, here.