|Last fall we focused on the protests
in Stuttgart, Germany, that saw one hundred fifty thousand people taking
to the streets in a mid-sized state capital in South West Germany.
The protests started with a few
hundred, then thousands, then tens of thousands. When during a demonstration
attended by 65,000 people, a sit-in by school children (age 8-15) was violently
attacked by the police, causing the loss of both eyes of a bystander in
his 60s who stepped in front of the kids to protect them, anger in the
city exploded and the size of the demonstration almost tripled the next
National daily papers as well as
the weekly Die Zeit took up the theme that had become prominent
for many protesters. It was no longer this or that specific local or regional
issue: it was frustration of citizens who did no longer feel represented
by politicians. It was the start of a democracy movement. The issue of
participatory democracy was no longer embraced by a few youngsters, intellectuals,
and political activists. The feeling that our democracy is largely fictitious,
that it disempowers us, the ordinary citizens, was spreading. That was
in September and in October 2010.
The movement, though braked and
to some extent split by a clever mediation process, is continuing its demonstrations.
But the massive turn-out seen in late September has receded for the time
being, due to the recent state election that gave the German South West
the first state government ever that is headed by a prime minister who
belongs to the Green Party.
Many who supported the movement
last year place their trust again in a party. A different party, they hope.
But as the concrete issues that started the demonstrations are far from
resolved, it is possible that the movement will swell again if and when
the Greens "cannot deliver" what they promised.
While people were facing the police
in Stuttgart, very much the same - in a more militant way - happened in
Then, in early 2011, the democracy
movement in Tunisia took off, and a month later, we saw the demonstrations
on Cairo's Tahir Square.
If anything, it was the awareness
that millions in the street can successfully press for significant change,
which ignited the Real Democracy, Yes! movement in Spain.
Seems we were right last October
when we wrote, "Calls for citizen participation and real democracy are
heard outside activist 'direct democracy' circles for the first time."
The idea is spreading, around the
world. It is the crisis, in its numerous forms (and it is deciphered today
in its interrelated aspect, as economic, political, and ecological!) that
is driving people into the streets. Motivating them to become active citizens
who assemble in the squares of their cities, joining the debate, voicing
grievances, expressing their fears and hopes, defining goals, demanding
Real democracy, less fictitious,
is what we demand. A bit more - NO, a lot more participative. Thus finally
empowering all of us, you and me, her and him.