Many people will remember the year 2019, but, in my opinion, one of its most important features has been the impressive growth of what can be called social activity or even aggression. And perhaps this is also a sign of growing global chaos.
In 2019, a wave of various protests swept over much of the modern world. They were seen in Chile and Ecuador, France and Barcelona, Iran and Iraq, Hong Kong and India, and many other countries and cities. In some cases, the protests ended more or less quickly, while in other places they continue to this day. In some places they are more likely to smoulder, but retain the hidden potential to become larger conflagrations.
In fact, protests, demonstrations and strikes are completely normal; no one has yet invented the panacea for social, economic and political conflict. People should have every right to be dissatisfied with something and express themselves openly about it, to demonstrate their disagreement and annoyance with what is happening.
History, including recent events, is full of such examples. And so you can ask, what is special now? In Lebanon, the authorities decided to introduce a fee for WhatsApp? Well, a worthy occasion for a protest and the resignation of the government in the end. Did Chile’s government increase subway tariffs? Why is this not the reason for the riots and dozens of victims? There were protests before, and for various reasons. Until recently, we witnessed the aftermath of the "Arab Spring", which, incidentally, may not be over yet. And indeed, is human history a history of rebellion and revolt, mutual hatred and aggression?
Nevertheless, it still seems to me that the social elements at the beginning of the 21st century have their own distinctive features, which are some cause for alarm.
Second, and this is a consequence of the new communication situation too, but not exclusively, the protests almost universally lack a pronounced leadership and requirements system. It is clear that in each case there were causes and reasons. New laws - like in India and Hong Kong, dissatisfaction with the elections - like in Ecuador, higher fees for a service or the cost of any goods and services - like in Chile and Lebanon. But everywhere it turns out that the “casus belli” in no way came down to the real reason for the protests. Moreover, the satisfaction of primary demands does not always lead to the cessation of protests, or at least to a decrease in their scale. Even more curiously, there is no connection between the declared motives of protests in different countries. We see the left’s demands (most of them, anyway), the right demands, and in many places you cannot understand what kind of protests these types of consciousness generate. In general, they possess no clear agenda, and no clear leaders. But everywhere there is an extremely sharp rejection of the current elite and the very serious, often extremely radical role of youth.
Third, there is the blurring of the borders of protests. Again, the new information and communication environment plays a role. But - again - the whole thing can’t be reduced to that alone. Without a clear agenda, protests nevertheless turn out to be an element of general dissatisfaction with what is happening. In a certain sense, the protests are somewhere in the middle, between the completely legitimate Brexit decision and the bloodthirsty criminality of ISIS (banned in Russia). The blurring of the borders of protests has another dimension - environmental activists, as well as fighters for various types of human rights and the like are closely adjacent to them.
At first glance, there are several reasons (although there may be much more, or they may be completely different): the growth of property inequality all over the world, the increase in life expectancy and the quality of life, the obsolescence of world elites, as well as the destruction of socialisation and systems promoting social harmony.
With the growth of property inequality, everything is more or less clear. Although people aren’t getting poorer, rich people are increasing their wealth at a faster rate than relatively low-income people. Again, due to the intense, unprecedented increase in communication, this is very noticeable: the boundaries between private and public life are blurred. Everyone sees everything everywhere, or what he would like to see. Verifying the accuracy of the information is almost impossible. In general, a powder mixture of irritation and malignant illusions about the ease of life improving is ready.
The increase in life expectancy and, again, open communication have created a real or imaginary barrier for many young people. They see no prospects while the "old people" rule everything. And the "old people" are still healthy and able to rule for a long time. In the eyes of many, the world’s social pyramid sharpened unusually. As someone noted, now this is not the Pyramid of Cheops, but the Burj Khalifa skyscraper, which is almost impossible to climb on. And although the world’s birth rate is not too high, still in the eyes of young people, the prospects for rapid elevation and progress look dull if you do not throw away or squeeze the current rulers.
The obsolescence and fatigue of world elites is an obvious factor. The world is changing rapidly, but the elite, in general, no. At the same time, it seems to many that new people should respond to new challenges. In general, of course, such statements are populist demagogy. Mind and ability are not a direct function of age. Therein lies a problem, since the real interdependence of people and countries is growing, but the level of regulation of world processes is clearly inadequate to suit the current state of affairs. Moreover, the cause of world self-government definitely needs to be improved. A striking example is the global environment.
Finally, the traditional mechanisms of socialisation have weakened significantly, the mechanisms that allow young people to integrate into the adult world, and for adults to find ways to coexist in a world full of problems, inequality and injustice. The family, school, university, church, army, trade union, political parties and other social institutions in many countries have ceased to work as institutions of socialisation. Moreover, even television, which has replaced a lot for a while, is losing its integrating role. Social networks and other achievements of the new communication environment not only unite, but disunite people, creating what can be thought of as virtual new tribes. And such fragmentation is very prone to manipulation and other totalitarian practices. The beneficiaries of these practices are simply not obvious.Of course, I am absolutely not sure, that these factors are actually the causes of what is happening. But it is very difficult to shake the anxiety, the feeling that chaos is spreading. And I would be happy to be proven wrong when discussing the nature of the current protests.