Are we really seeing a global people's revolution in the making? Is the Occupy movement which is creeping along in the west an outpouring of rage against greedy corporations or another version of the summer riots in the UK where young people mocked the system and then stole lots of shoes for themselves?
Or is it a natural progression of the Arab Spring which started in Tunisia last December? Is the India Against Corruption struggle part of this international trend? Or is everyone just reading too much into a few motley gatherings of disgruntled peoples here and there, egged on by a sensationalist media always in search of one more dramatic event?
I admit right here that I don't have the answers to all these questions. Certainly it is very tempting to put it all together as an uprising against a distressing economic climate, coupled with a fatigue with old systems which are no longer delivering.
The Age of Aquarius? With protests mushrooming in different corners
of the globe, one may wonder if a new world order is around the corner
If it is possible to separate Team Anna from the India Against Corruption idea, there can be no doubt that people are tired of having to grease palms or wait forever for basic amenities. Government inefficiency and political iniquity go hand and in hand in India, and it is no secret. Inflation is not helping matters either. The sweep of protests in the Middle East -- some of which are no less than civil war -- is another matter. Years of suppression, whether by religion, lack of democracy, dictatorship, economic deprivation, created a sort of tipping point in ordinary people. The fear of retaliation was not as strong as the desire for change. It is no small matter than many of these movements started out as non-violent ones. Dictators fled and the western world -- so caught up in its religious and cultural deterministic view of everyone but itself -- watched its friends and allies crumbling.
Much as it searched for the hand of Islam behind the protests, all it found were demands for democracy and economic reforms. The Occupy Wall Street movement, now visible in other parts of the world, is intriguing because for us in the "developing" world it has been ages since we have seen the better off -- compared to us that is -- protesting against benefits to the even better off. But the anger against bail outs to big banks and giant corporations seems real. But are similar attempts in India just copycats, enthused by world events or a bunch of loonies who are trying to grab their moment?
A quick pop psycho analysis suggests that the way the world has been run so far is in need of change. Maybe the 21st century is bored with 20th century solutions. Maybe the apparent stability provided after the Second World War is struggling after the assured positions of the Cold War vanished. Maybe the inter-connectedness of the world is a boon to ordinary people but a nightmare to those who want to control everything.
Simply, we know too much. Is it not surprising then that China spends effort and money to keep its people out of the information loop as far as possible? Here's the problem --does one jump zestfully on the bandwagon, sure that this is the end of the world as we know it and the beginnings of a new world order? Is this what the hippies promised us with the Age of Aquarius? Or does one stand aside, sure in omniscient cynicism that a movement without a leader, an ideology and a clear map for the future is doomed to failure? Would we be better off waiting for a passing comet to ensure the end of the Earth? This much is certain: it's going to be a bumpy flight.
-- Ranjona Banerji is a senior journalist