Hundreds of thousands of protesters are taking to the streets in Greece’s capital to voice their opposition to the austerity measures going through parliament.
While some of the protesters have been peaceful, many frustrations have boiled over into violence, with angry Greeks trashing property, lighting stuff on fire, and attacking security forces.
Frankly, I don’t blame them for being upset. Their government is about to take on another bailout from the global loan-sharks known as the IMF, complete with many deep-reaching strings attached, in response to a crisis many say was caused by bankers and politicians.
But throwing petrol bombs at police officers won’t help anything. This just tarnishes the image of the demonstrators while making it harder for peaceful activists to get their voice heard.
In The Shock Doctrine, journalist Naomi Klein highlights the ways big institutions exploit disaster stricken people and countries when they’re the most vulnerable, shackling entire populations to crippling debts.
Well, this just happened in Egypt. The IMF has given Egypt’s transitional government a $3 Billion dollar loan to help ‘revitalize the economy’.
Unfortunately, this money has just fallen into the corrupt hands leftover from the old regime, meaning the majority of the money will just be embezzled before stimulating the economy or doing the Egyptian people any good.
But that won’t stop the IMF from holding regular Egyptians accountable for the debt. Whatever new regime arises in the coming months, they will be on the hook for this $3 Billion taken on by a few corrupt officials in Cairo.
This is too bad. Now Egypt’s soon-to-arise fledgling democracy, and all the people of Egypt, will be forced to make concessions to a global loan-shark. It’s like they’ve moved from one dictator to another, only the new king is a bank instead of a body.
The International Monetary Fund and World Bank, much like the World Trade Organization, have a horrible track record of exploiting and further impoverishing poor countries to the benefit of the wealthy. There is every reason to be upset with these organizations and to want to protest against them.
But what often happens, like in following video from Turkey last week, protests turn violent as riot police clash with combative dissenters.
The young people, donning faces covered in gas masks or hankerchiefs, tossing molotovs and rocks, are lashing out in their frustration at not being heard. But what are their actions really accomplishing?
Certainly they are not conveying any sort of intelligent message. Those in the IMF and World Bank who’ve earned the scorn of these protesters are just going to see these protesters as marginalized radicals.
The riot police who clash directly with these people… they are just doing their jobs and putting to use the training they received. Its not like the flying rocks or home-made bombs are going to get them to change their minds about the situation, as if they will be like “Oh, you made an excellent point by lighting me on fire… I now see the error of my ways… down with the IMF!”
The owners of the property being damaged are not going to be sympathetic to the cause, either. In fact, they will only support more police crack-downs, to protect their shops and vehicles from being looted and trashed.
As well, the mainstream media loves to protray all protestors as being wild, violent anarchists hell-bent on the destruction of civilization, and these violent demonstrations only serve to solidify these conservative points of view.
So what does violent protest accomplish? It doesn’t further the points that those who oppose the IMF are trying to make. Instead, it only ensures that whenever these groups meet, they will have more riot squads ready and eager to crack down and crack skulls, and more support from the public to do so.
Instead, we need to find alternatives to violent protest… peaceful demonstrations, non-violent civil disobedience, coordinating mass movements, writing/phoning our politicians. Empower yourself. Achieve a higher status within your community, gain the respect of your peers. Don’t just throw rocks and molotovs… find more constructive ways to get your voice heard.
Ghandi was able to liberate an entire country without violence… you can get your point across without violence as well.