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Attending the rally outside the ‘Roundhouse’ in Santa Fe on Saturday, February the 26th, in support of public employee unions and the Democratic state senators of Wisconsin, made me remember that the current world-wide wave to reclaim self-determination began with Muhammad Bouazizi in Tunisia.
Bouazizi, a young, once-obscure street vendor despairing of justice, set himself on fire as his protest against corruption, humiliation and the untouchable power of the entrenched few. That desperate, defiant act by Mr Bouazizi, like the fabled beating of the butterfly’s wings that swelled into a tidal wave, seems to have reverberated around much of our planet.
To me, the subsequent non-violent uprising in Egypt--again led by students and lawyers--was the most stirring Asain event of its kind since Gandhi’s march to the sea to collect salt. But now the Egyptian military and the Moslem Brotherhood appear poised to snatch Egypt’s future away from the aspiring progressive youth and professionals who had the guts to demand freedom and democracy.
Where now are the young progressives in the USA? There were about 1000 people demonstrating at the Roundhouse--men and women in about equal numbers, but not many young people.
It isn’t yet evident whether American youth of today or in the near future will rally to reclaim their individual rights and reverse Big Business’ successful campaign to claim human rights for business corporations. Or even whether young people will fight to rebalance the relationship between the governed and those who are supposed to govern in the public interest.
We old progressives and moderates may not be able to present our views more persuasively in the future than we have these past few decades. The case for individual rights, justice and opportunity for all must be made anew in each generation, for it is the young who will have to live with the consequences.