• Anya

The Protests of 2019 and What They Might Mean

People have been rebelling and opposing what they deem unfair for millennia, but in 2019 the world has seen an unusual increase in the number of protests since the beginning of the 21st century. Whether it be as simple as protesting the price of food, or as complex as leading an independence movement - people are protesting. While for all different reasons, the one uniting factor amongst all of these protests is that many, if not all, protests are in opposition to the government or a government action. Furthering that point, all the protests written about in this blog (The Yellow Vest, Chilean, Catalan, and Indian Citizenship Bill Protests) have all started in part, due to a catalyst. In France and Chile, it was the rise in transportation costs and in Spain and India, it was government actions that threatened both citizenship and rights of citizenship which have all led to ongoing protests. What this says is that these problems that people are protesting have been deeply-rooted for quite some time. It is only recently that everything has finally boiled over.

 

Protests:

What do protests generally reveal about the world? They reveal that people want change. They want their voices to be heard; they don’t agree with something (whatever that may be), and most importantly, they are concerned about their future. Firstly, with the advent of technology and the rise of social media influence, protests have become a more popular/mainstream medium to voice one’s opinions. Previously, it was difficult to organize a protest as it had to be organized ‘word of mouth’. Now, somebody is able to advertise a protest in a matter of seconds using social media. This has allowed hundreds or even thousands of people to protest at one time. Take the women’s march or the climate protests as examples. People all around the world are able to protest through collective organization which was next to impossible before the widespread use of technology. Secondly, because of this use of technology, protests have become more common. This has led to a normalization of protests. Smaller issues in the past that wouldn’t have had a space to protest, or enough people to organize them, now have a means to do so, leading to an even bigger number of protests. Thirdly, there are some who believe this normalization of protests may lead them to becoming less threatening to the government or group of people that it aims to threaten. Finally, leaderless protests have been on a rise, showcasing a need that people have to represent themselves instead of someone else doing that for them.

 

The Yellow Vest and Chilean Protests:

As I researched most in depth The Yellow Vest, Chilean, Catalan, and Indian Citizenship Bill protests, those are the protests I will be referencing as in depth examples most. I will try and compare them and find some overarching themes.

The Yellow Vest and Chilean Protests have a lot in common. For one, they were both initiated due to a rise in transportation cost. In France it was the fuel tax, and in Chile it was the rise in subway fares. Normally, a simple rise in cost would annoy people, but it wouldn’t generally lead to full-on organized protests. This goes to show that these issues were only a catalyst implying a much larger problem than just transportation costs. The people protesting in both these protests face economic challenges. In France and Chile, the rise in transportation costs directly affects the poor of the working and low middle classes, which makes sense as the Yellow Vest has come to represent the working man.


For a while now, there has been a rising change of belief throughout the developed and high developing world that has led to a rise in economic-based protests such as the ones in France and Chile. For the longest time, most people believed that a growth in the economy would directly and positively impact the lives of the working and middle classes because projects such as highways help the rich and the poor. In the past few years, attention has shifted from the economy to issues like “better health care, less inequality, and fighting climate change” . As noble as they may be, the lesser emphasis on the economy and more emphasis on policies like supporting green alternatives to energy and more, impact the poor the most. People with factory jobs like in coal are negatively impacted by the growth in green alternatives as they can lose their jobs. For example, the fuel tax in France that was supposedly put in place for environmental concerns, made it more expensive for poor people who depended on cars and trucks to make their living. Similarly, it’s not that poor people do not want to help the environment, but traditionally green alternatives such as electric cars or alternatives to energy from coal (depending on region) are more expensive. At the same time, there have been different reasons for the poor feeling left out like in Chile. Tax breaks on the rich were put in place to supposedly “attract investment and boost growth”, but these have led to the general population feeling that the government favours the rich. So, while this shift of belief is also important, growing the economy is the only way that poor people are able to make a better life for themselves and their children. In the long-term, growing the economy will help people to lift themselves out of poverty and overall help the environment once they’re in a place to care for it.


Overall, The Yellow Vests and Chilean protests (as well as others not mentioned in this blog) imply a growing problem among many countries. As the shift focuses away from the economy, the working and middle classes suffer. It signifies a classic importance of the elite while leaving behind everyone else.

 

The Catalan and Indian Citizenship Bill Protests:

While in two completely separate parts of the world, the Catalan and Indian Citizenship Bill protests have surprisingly quite a lot in common. They both stem from years of identity struggles. In Spain’s past, Catalan culture and language have been suppressed, supposedly in order to forge a stronger spanish national identity. In India, particularly Assam, native peoples of the area and migrants have clashed due to the “sons of the soil” concept (mentioned in the Indian protests post). Both protests have occurred due to a belief that their identity is under threat.


As long as humans have been around, people have struggled with the concept of ‘identity’. There are group identities and individual identities, but overall, everyone struggles to ‘fit-in’ and belong. The Catalan protests share a sentiment from decades of struggling with their identity. Families were torn apart due to politics during the 1936 Spanish civil war and similarly, during the Catalan protests. Families have struggled to remain united, oddly enough reflecting Spain as a nation. In India, it was slightly different. India is a place with great diversity in religion and ethnicity making it rich in culture, but also rich in conflict. The protests that started in Assam reflected a growing belief that Assamese identity was under threat due to the high numbers of migrants. The protests in the rest of the country echoed the idea of growing divisions.


Since the concept of a ‘nation’ arose and long-held empires broke apart, nationalism tied together a nation through a common goal. This stayed especially important through the first world war when the whole nation had to help with the war effort together. After the first world war, former American President Wilson introduced the concept of self-determination, allowing an ethnic group to govern themselves. During the 20th century, many new nations established themselves, spanning into the 21st century.


Divisions within the world keep occuring. As groups divide more and more, people associate themselves with one group or another. For example, liberals and conservatives have been separate for quite some time; however, lately each group tends to vilify each other. This represents a tribal like warfare where two groups are in constant conflict with one another. With that said, uniting with one another despite the differences is intrinsic to human nature. So, while I don’t agree with the protests in Catalonia or India, I don’t necessarily disagree either. Identity has been and always will be a point of contention in the world, but that doesn’t mean that people can’t try to understand the other side.


Ultimately, national identity thrives in a time where one has to be together with the nation like this time of covid-19, so it will be interesting to see where the protests based on identity will head once all of this is over.

 

Covid-19:

As everyone knows, the coronavirus or covid-19 pandemic has significantly changed the lives of many people around the world. With many countries around the world on lockdown, life is pretty different for everyone. The economic, political, and social effects of this pandemic are yet to be felt; however, the present-day effects are quite real. Many people are presently dealing with the physical and psychological effects of the pandemic. Yet, in all of that there are people still protesting, attesting to the belief of the strength of protests.


Covid-19 has and will continue to significantly impact the economy. While wealthy people will be of course impacted, it is the small business owners and working class people with jobs that are temporarily not needed that will suffer the most. After lockdowns are lifted and some sense of normalcy is introduced, there may be a rise in protests due to the poor economic circumstances of people. There will be quite a lot of people suffering economically short-term/long-term, so there may be a rise in protests, specifically leaderless protests. As for identity-based protests such as those in India and Catalonia, I think there could be a decrease in them as people will have to band together to get through these lockdowns and difficult times. As a result, nationalism could even increase. Overall, governments’ response to this pandemic will shape how people in the future will voice their opinions. This pandemic, as much as it has negatively changed all of our lives, will lead to good actions throughout the world. It might even lead to a revitalization of the world through art, culture, and science.

 

All Sources Used:

https://www.britannica.com/science/cultural-globalization

https://www.newyorker.com/news/our-columnists/the-story-of-2019-protests-in-every-corner-of-the-globe

https://quillette.com/2020/01/09/the-growth-dilemma/

https://globalnews.ca/news/6087849/protests-around-the-world-reasons/

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/21/world/americas/why-chile-protests.html

https://globalclimatestrike.net/

https://womensmarchglobal.org/

https://www.out-bounds.com/post/indian-citizenship-protests

https://www.out-bounds.com/post/the-yellow-vest-protests-of-france

https://www.out-bounds.com/post/the-chile-protests

https://www.out-bounds.com/post/the-catalan-protests

https://www.out-bounds.com/post/the-catalan-protests-part-two


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