Item # 1:
The story of Egypt’s most recent revolution is not new. But there’s a level of detail in an article in the New Yorker, about how exactly events unfolded, that’s astonishing. (Peter Hessler, “The Showdown,” July 22.)
So how did revolution that toppled President Mohammed Morsi early this month start? Here’s what happened.
It began last April with all of five activists, ranging in age from twenty-two to thirty, who came up with the idea of a petition campaign to reject the Morsi presidency. Just two months later, by June, they had collected more than fifteen million signatures, each reputedly on a separate sheet of paper. Notwithstanding these astonishingly impressive numbers, the activists seemed still so amateurish that political elites across the spectrum never took them seriously. The American Ambassador to Egypt, Anne Patterson, was typical. She gave a speech in the middle of the month in which she dismissed the activists’ efforts, “Some say that street action will produce better results than elections,” said Patterson. But, “to be honest, my government and I are deeply skeptical.”
On the last day of June, the small group of activists who had named themselves Tamarrod – it means “Rebellion” – publicly called for large demonstrations. I have to wonder if they had any idea of what they would unleash. Hessler writes the protests that followed were even larger than the ones that had toppled Mubarak two and a half years earlier. “Huge crowds filled Tahrir and the streets around Cairo’s Presidential Palace, and there were protests in every major Egyptian city, with plans to hold sit-ins until Morsi left. A military source said that as many as fourteen million people had participated, out of a population of eighty-three million.” Just one day after the protests started, the military issued an ultimatum: either Morsi would make concessions or he would be out. By July 5th Morsi was history.
Item # 2:
In the past two years, more than one hundred Tibetans have set themselves aflame in protest against Chinese rule. These numbers are not, of themselves, large. But they have spread across the Tibetan plateau, and they are growing. In 2011, a dozen Tibetans immolated themselves, most of them monks or former monks. In 2012, there were more than eighty, some of them monks and nuns, others nomads and students. The oldest of the self-immolators was in his early sixties, the youngest was fifteen.
Item # 3:
The Pope is in Rio and the demonstrations in Brazil have for now subsided. But every indication is that President Dilma Rousseff’s several attempts to placate the protesters have failed. More than a month after the demonstrations erupted – over everything from corruption to overspending on the forthcoming World Cup and Summer Olympics to police brutality to poor public health care to equally poor public schools – there is no sign that Rousseff’s government has been able even to begin effectively to address the nation’s woes. Brazil has long had one of the world’s highest levels of income inequality. So the rich have generally been protected against what’s gone wrong. But the poor and, more importantly, the middle class, have not. Despite Brazil’s especially impressive economic development in the last ten years, those other than the rich and powerful feel shut out. Even the middle class, despite their increased incomes, feels shut out of a system in which living conditions are more evocative of a developing country than a developed one.
Young people have been, under certain circumstances, delighted to work as interns. Even though interns are typically unpaid, a certain demographic has seen them as portals to better jobs, to paying jobs, at a later point in their lives. Now things are changing, at least slightly. Interns are fighting back, fighting against a system that many are coming to believe exploits them by failing to provide wages and, simultaneously, failing to provide the educational benefits that supposedly justify internships in the first place. While this is hardly a mass movement, attention should be paid when a group as bereft of resources as interns tries to wrest for itself some measure of power. Interns are now filing lawsuits – occasionally actually winning. (In June, a federal judge ruled that interns working on the movie “Black Swan” should have received at least a minimum wage.) They are drafting petitions. (Two students at New York University recently drafted a petition that called for the University to stop advertising unpaid internships. Within days, more than a thousand people had signed.) And Intern Labor Rights, which lobbies for the cause its name implies, is joining with other, similar groups, in countries that include Canada, France, and the Netherlands, to make common cause, to ensure they either get paid, or benefit from training that contributes to their professional development.
As a write, the Dream Defenders are in their seventh day. For seven days this band of protesters has been sitting outside the office of Florida Governor Rick Scott, demanding that he call a special session of the Florida legislature to review Stand Your Ground laws. In the wake of the searing national soul-searching that has been in the aftermath of the trial of Georg Zimmerman, the Dream Defenders figure he has a moral obligation to do at least this.