It was a big day for anomie and incipient rebellion in the world. On Saturday the Europeans rose up in numbers and manners that many Americans might find shocking, or unruly. Massive crowds gathered and marched in most capitals, with organizers having planned some of the events for months, even before the OWS protests. There was violence in Rome. As many as 10,000 people occupied and filled up Times Square in New York. Although not as large in number or seething with anti-state and anti-Capital sentiment as in Spain and Italy, crowds appeared in major cities throughout Asia. Latin America was not left out, with thousands of “los Indignados” in the streets of Chilean and Brazilian cities, and elsewhere.
In Copenhagen, Denmark, 5,000 people rallied, united under the same sort of slogans and banners seen in American “occupations,” but with more emphatic use of anti-capitalist language. That is one oceanic difference in the nature and rhetoric of the protests elsewhere in the world, compared to our own: we are still squeamish in America about making overt connections between “capitalism” as practiced in its current form, and the precise issues that are causing us to grouse and protest. At least according to our media reports, there is not as much talk in domestic demonstrations about the basic parallels between war and our neo-imperial brand of economics, for instance. A lot of the focus seems to be on anti-banker resentment and the diminished standard of living of our own working class. And that should be expected, because people are in fact being attacked and morally outraged, and they are finally being pushed to defend themselves.
But Europe has had more time to suffer, make war, establish governments, and philosophize, so they have their act more together, and think less in nationalist terms. Their economies are even more fragile now than America’s, with more dependence on state control and response.
These are some of the reasons you get between “tens of thousands” and 100,000 people in Madrid, many calling themselves the “Indignants,” and why there is already violence in Rome. European governments also have a bit more of the Billy Club in their methods, to different degrees. 70 were injured in Rome, including 40 police officers, and some men lost their hands in trying to blow up cars. Witnesses report seeing Molotov cocktails thrown in the area near Rome’s Interior Ministry, where fires broke out. CNN and doubtless others are reporting that large groups of black-masked “anarchists” are causing mayhem there in Italy. Europe is just ahead of the curve, however one looks at it. Wrap your head around this photo of the visible civic involvement of the people of Madrid,
One can see why the crowd estimates vary so wildly. Some few thousands protested in London, where Julian Assange made an appearance in a mask, and was ordered to take it off, whereupon he made a speech.
In France, one protester unnamed by CNN had this to say,
You are not listening to us, whatever we do, however we vote, however we demonstrate. It does not give any result. Quite the opposite, as poverty and austerity plans continue. So we can’t go on like this so we are getting out and showing ourselves,” he said.
Though these European protests are somewhat more universal in their aim, and are influenced by the heated and more socialist political traditions of their histories, they are a response to the same inequality and institutional madness that drive Americans into the streets, or into support for those in the streets. It should be interesting to see how American leadership responds to all this, what with it’s hands so full with being divisive and fraudulent in all its doings.