A global zeitgeist by @DavidOAtkins

A global zeitgeist

by David Atkins

Meanwhile, in Russia:

MOSCOW — Tens of thousands of Russians walked purposefully to a square in the center of Moscow on Saturday, speaking up against their authoritarian government after years of silence and marking a dividing point in the rule of Vladimir Putin.

People raised their voices in cities and towns across the country, an estimated 20,000 to 40,000 in Moscow, another 10,000 in St. Petersburg. In a buoyant mood, they celebrated a widespread feeling that something had changed as they gathered in the largest opposition protests Putin has ever encountered.

While no one was calling it a revolution — bloggers dubbed it The Great December Evolution — protesters demanded free elections and called for their leaders to listen to them. Organizers promised to hold an even bigger rally on Dec. 24.

Putin no doubt will win the presidency in March, putting him in position to rule for another 12 years. But by the end of the demonstration, change had already begun. Heavily armored police stood silently and respectfully and made no arrests here, unlike earlier in the week. Two government-owned television stations, Channel One and NTV, broadcast straightforward reports of the demonstration after ignoring the others over the last week. And in a message from his jail cell, blogger Alexei Navalny told Russians they had brought about the most important transformation simply by standing in the square.

“The most powerful weapon is self-esteem,” he wrote. “One for all and all for one.”

The particulars in each country and culture are different, but it's obvious that there is a seething discontent with the modern global political and economic order. Russia has been under the control of the plutocratic oligarchs since at least Yeltsin. America's political system is broken and totally at the mercy of the corporate sector, with yet more proof of that coming today. The dictators of the Middle East have been making alliances with the West in exchange for keeping their petro-plutocrats safe.

The very wealthy the world over are content with the system. But no one else is. If the powers that be thought that there would be a nice, slow, easy transition to them to a world with just an economically privileged elite and a fungible impoverished underclass, they're wrong. It may be possible to keep an underclass cowed for generations on end, but once people have seen an alternative and lived better, forcing them quietly back into serfdom is a very difficult task.

There's something about self-respect that, once hard won, is very difficult to take away.