6/25/2013 11:01 AM ET|
Why the middle-class revolt has begun
Movements in Turkey, Brazil and Iran provide a blueprint for a different kind of economic uprising.
Reuters columnist David Rohde -- a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner who knows a thing or two about these matters -- points to the recent Taksim Square protests in Turkey, Hassan Rohani's surprising presidential election win in Iran, and economic protest in Brazil as examples of a greater middle-class uprising.
In his column on Quartz, he cautiously hints at parallels between those movements, austerity protests in Europe and the U.S. Occupy movement as examples of middle-class citizens "demanding basic political rights, accountable governments and a fairer share of resources."
There are marked differences among all of these events, and none are on par with the Arab Spring demonstrations of recent years, but Rohde suggests Americans who are a bit war-weary when it comes to global affairs should see the more recent upheaval as a positive step.
"The protesters are performing the same role as middle classes have in developed nations," Rohde says. "As their standard of living rises, so do their expectations of government."
That's certainly the case in Turkey, where Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's rule has been bolstered by an economic boom that has enriched even those massing against him. That windfall, however, has made Turks far less passive about government attempts to curb dissent, mute news about protest and respond to citizens' grievances with overwhelming displays of force. They may not want to overthrow the government, but they want to hold it accountable.
In Brazil, the ruling Workers' Party was hailed during the country's economic boom for implementing reforms that helped the poor and middle class. With the once-thriving BRIC (for the quartet of rising powers Brazil, Russia, India and China) economy taking a turn for the worse, boom-era political corruption coming to light and a $12 billion government layout to host the 2014 World Cup drawing ire, the beneficiaries of those initial economic reforms are now taking to the streets.
With the number of university students in Brazil doubling since 2001, an educated youth movement believes the money their government has squandered should have been used to attract well-paying jobs.
In Iran, meanwhile, voters fed up with the country’s weak economy, isolation and tight-fisted conservative power structure pressed for fair elections and pushed back against the regime that crushed Iran's 2009 Green Revolution.
In all three cases, the middle class organized movements on social media and called for basic individual rights and accountable government. They came together as an extended branch of said governments and put a check on overreaching power.
So, no, the Safeways aren't ransacked and the suburbs aren't burning, but you don't need wanton destruction to build a middle-class revolt.
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