Amid Viral Social Media, Collectivism Returns

Posted on December 13, 2011 in Specials

By Abhirup Bhunia:

Tens of thousands of Russians gathered in Moscow protesting against Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, calling the elections fraud and waving disparaging slogans. This is one of the many recent examples of public discontent spilling out on the streets.

Sometime earlier, multinational banks were the subject of wrath and their gluttony the object of hatred for protestors in cities across the world from London to New York.

India is witnessing a historic revolution as the chief organiser of the movement, Anna Hazare calls it the second independence movement. The numbers accumulating in New Delhi are anybody’s guess.

The manifestation of anger has never been so explicit. And its not just raw energy — the strong-minded determination with which specific demands are asked to be met is some newness.

People the world over are coming out on the streets in surprisingly high numbers than ever before, ever since the world warmed up to a largely globalized neo-liberal statute.

We have seen legislators kowtow to popular sentiments, dictators flee, sheiks tremble and browbeaten societies flare up at authoritarian governments. We also saw how the world came together in opposition to unregulated capitalism as thousands gathered on the streets of London, Paris, New York and Brussels and several other cities. European nations have already had witnessed rioting and protests against job cuts, pension reforms, and curtailment of welfare spending. The Occupy Wall Street movement captured the imagination of ordinary citizens across the Western world, not just because they were personal victims of a financial meltdown, but because there was a widespread sense of odium against greedy investment bankers and financial bosses who displayed enormous amounts of ethical deficiency in their dealings.

No matter what the fundamentals are — the prevalent perception matters and it does to a huge extent. The OWS movement was reminiscent of the hippie uprising that the world was witness to in the sixties and seventies. Most, perhaps all, of these movements that have occurred in the past one year, the Slutwalks, Occupy movements, the Anna Hazare campaign in India or the Arab uprisings, can be traced back to a status update on Facebook or a 140-character message on Twitter. Organisers have also been building pages dedicated to movements where details of a gathering are posted, strategies developed and plans laid out.

Evidently it is a time when people are increasingly coming together and championing causes. It’s an era of modern collectivism fuelled by social networking websites. The collective efforts of masses that cut across religion, class and caste form the structure of ongoing anti-establishment drives. People are no more willing to accept what is unjust and the norm — be it corruption in politics, totalitarianism in administration, aloofness to the plight of common man, or exorbitant growth of the select few at the cost of the “99%”.

Two things constitute the basis of this entire phenomenon: 1. Availability of a uniting medium and 2. Intolerance of social/political/economic injustice. Another striking feature of these revolts is that they are incredibly non-violent. Some of these movements that surpass nationality (for instance the OWS) have been remarkable in their global cohesiveness.

With internet penetration only poised to grow in developing nations, awareness is likely to grow too. And where internet is already omnipresent, social media will now erase doubts about organisability. At this rate of technology-spurred democratisation, nothing even remotely unfair that the government does will be tolerated. World governments know that and they are on their toes, already.

The writer is an ex-editor of Youth Ki Awaaz.