The World is on Fire

2019 has been a momentous year for democracy. Although it might not seem like it to many in the western world, 2019 has seen millions of people across the world find their voice and use it to march, fight, and vote for democracy. Perhaps the most visible example of this is in Hong Kong; in this “Special Administrative Region” of China, opposition to a proposed extradition bill turned into massive protests for democracy involving some 25% of the entire Hong Kong population at its peak. By next week, these protests will be on their ninth month, and they have been the most visible example of the global movement towards democracy that has taken hold this year.     Perhaps one of the most successful protests for democracy has been in the nation of Sudan, where, in April of 2019, the Sudanese dictator and convicted war criminal Omar al-Bashir was overthrown in a coup d’etat after massive protests engulfed the African nation. Al-Bashir held an iron grip on the nation for 30 years, and with his overthrowal, the nation has had its first glimpse of democracy in fifty years. Elsewhere in the Middle East, millions of Iraqis have been marching in the streets and striking against government incompetence and a lack of opportunities for young Iraqis, leading to the resignation of the nation’s president. And in Lebanon, millions have taken to the streets to protest government oppression, corruption and dysfunction. All over the world, from Spain to Chile and Bolivia to Haiti, millions have taken 2019 as an opportunity to take to the streets to make a stand for democracy against corruption, dysfunction, and oppression.     But why 2019? We have seen a much larger number of major protests this year than in any normal year, but why this year in particular? One could argue that this is simply a coincidence, however the sheer number of major protests discounts this possibility. Another reason could be the spread of social media and internet access in many developing nations riddled with government dysfunction, allowing quick spread of information about problems and proposed solutions and efficient mass mobilization. Although spreading protests through social media has the potential to galvanize millions, due to their lack of formal organization, these protests often face failure due to a lack of a clear goal and a lack of interest as time goes on.Another reason could be related to the character of the generation of the protests; due to the nature of these protests, those involved in them tend to be overwhelmingly young. This could indicate that this generation is more politically proactive about safeguarding democracy than others, perhaps due to the greater availability of information about democracies and a greater propensity to take risks. Or, maybe the world’s population has simply reached a breaking point after decades of global injustice and inequality; perhaps the world’s societies have finally became unequal and unjust enough to warrant millions marching in the streets. No matter what the cause of all this unrest and regime change is, it’s safe to say that this volatility will make 2019 a year for the history books. 

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