As in every turn of the year in 2018 a bonfire was lighted on the beach of The Hague in Holland. The difference of this fire, though, was its magnitude caused by the 50 meters high wooden pyre. The western wind blew a sea of sparks in the residential areas and caused a lot of damage to cars and houses until the fire brigade ended the dangerous outburst. Afterward, the responsible mayor had to withdraw. The next year the new mayor forbid this kind of bonfires. This caused protests among the youth accompanied by violent destruction and arson.
In many countries serious revolts are taking place as if the world is overcome by a general fury. Sometimes this rage is understandable, more often the fury overshadows the real cause. Plundering and threatening, wounding and killing adversaries, and harass policemen don’t justify whatever noble or just reason it serves. In many countries the right to protest or strike is laid down in the Constitution. Lately people use this right for about every disagreement. The joint dissatisfaction usually covers political, religious, or racial/ethnic differences. Some examples.
In France the Yellow Vests form a revolutionary political movement that demands lower fuel taxes, solidarity tax on wealth, higher minimum wages, and the resignation of president Macron. Mass demonstration started in November 2018 causing traffic jams, blocking of fuel depots and violent riots. The movement grew out to a mob of more than a million people with a moderate follow up in some other European countries.
In Bolivia after the recent elections protest broke out against the government and leftish president Morales, the military and police chose the side of the anti-government forces. Morales had to flee his house and city to find refuge with his supporters. While all over the country violent clashes took place between pro- and anti-Morales supporters, Morales publicly resigned and promised a new election. The turmoil though succeeded and Morales decided to flee his country to Mexico. Being an indigenous Bolivian his supporters came mainly from that ethnic population group.
In 1997 British colony Hong Kong became a special administrative (independent) part of China. It remained with its own passport and a British based law system. Beijing China has no right to arrest people in HK. That is where the trouble started in June 2019, namely against Chinese plans to allow extradition to mainland China. That caused a bulk of protest in the city streets and resulted in riots and violent actions both from the protesters and the police. As if a can of worms was opened of a subdued anti-Chinese feeling that had developed during the last years, actions continued. The protesters even tried to burn their own university, though the extradition bill had been withdrawn. Too little, too late. Chinese president Xi Jinping has warned against separatism, saying any attempt to divide China will end in “bodies smashed and bones ground to powder”.
Other riots and mass protests occur in Chili, Peru, Indonesia, Haiti, Lebanon, et cetera. In the Western world Climate Strikes disrupt daily life without any interference of the authorities. Racial and ethnic differences are about to degenerate into violent mass demonstrations.
One might ask: why is this happening, and why now?
Well, I come up with four possible converging reasons.
1) Freedom has reached a point that everybody wants to satisfy his own needs. Obedience and acceptance lose ground.
2) Emotions dominate pragmatic solutions.
3) Modern means of communication make it easy to organize masses.
4) Democratic systems (politicians and other authorities) have lost their grip on society.
So, what do we do about it? The Chinese solution? Admit and change the policies? Wait until it passes?
The first is unacceptable in the modern world, the second is worth to try, and the third includes the risk things get more out of hand than they already are.
A strong leader should be capable of listening, come with propositions, and explain what the consequences are of a policy change. He/she might make use of a referendum to make decisions or tailor future changes. Mind you: a strong leader is not a stubborn almighty leader.