Followers Not Following

For at least the last 8 years I have talked and written about leaders and followers and the trajectory of history. Put briefly: leaders in liberal democracies are getting weaker, more feckless; while followers in liberal democracies are getting stronger, more restless.

When I say this to a group, someone in the audience invariably asks, “Where does all this end?” “If followers continue to have more power and leaders less, what does this suggest for good governance?” I reply honestly, which is to admit that I don’t rightly know. I do though add that to look closely and carefully at the world in which we live is to get a few clues. Here just seven – all in the last few days.

  • In Chile were days of violent demonstrations by students protesting an increase in subway fares. In response, Chilean President Sebastian Pinera announced the raise would be repealed.   
  • Hong Kong, already the site of some 20 weeks of persistent protests, had another round. Despite being banned by the authorities from demonstrating, many thousands of black-clad activists again took to the streets, proving one more time their refusal to retreat.
  • Some estimates were that more than a million people marched yesterday in London, in opposition to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, agitating instead for a second referendum on Britain’s decision to exit the European Union.
  • In Lebanon tens of thousands of people took to the streets to protest tax increases and government corruption. Within days cracks began to appear in the governing coalition – one of the coalition parties has already pulled out.  
  • After a group of Catalan separatists received long prison sentences, peaceful marches, a general strike, and violent unrest “convulsed” Catalonia’s capital city, Barcelona, in northeastern Spain.   
  • Demonstrations in Ecuador against President Lenin Moreno’s proposed cuts to fuel subsidies were so violent and wide-ranging that he was forced temporarily to relocate his government outside the capital, Quito. In short order, Moreno, like his Chilean counterpart, Pinera, reversed his decision.
  • In Chicago, the U.S.’s third largest school system, some 32,000 teachers and support staff went on strike, cancelling classes for about 320,000 students. At this writing negotiations are still taking place, though a strike-ending agreement has not yet been reached.     

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