Isn’t what most people want the world over pretty much the same? They want to feel safe and secure, they want peace and justice. A political system that is inclusive, participatory, egalitarian and democratic. An economic system that gives them opportunity to do meaningful, satisfying work and that promotes social cohesion and solidarity. Freedom and tolerance to express their religious, cultural, philosophical or artistic beliefs. Space for nature and wilderness, and the opportunity to experience it. Increasingly people want to know that the planet is not being wrecked by our collective actions, and they see the profound changes we must make in order for this to be the case.
The last couple of weeks I’ve read the daily reports of the student protests in Hong Kong. I am overwhelmed by admiration for these young people. They are polite, peaceful and very well organised. The above photograph of a protester holding an umbrella so as to protect a policeman seems to sum up these last weeks of protest. I witnessed this same spirit of peaceful protest many times in my life, perhaps most impressively at the Occupy protests that I blogged about in November 2011. I recall the many times these protests have been met with violent state repression. Chinese oppression in Tiananmen Square in 1989, the USA in 1970 at Kent State University, the Russian quashing of the Prague Spring of 1968 and of course countless others. The Arab Spring which everywhere initially involved similar peaceful protest, which was frequently met by brutal state repression, and has descended into chaotic civil war in Syria and Libya. That surely is what no one wants, and it is a situation from which only the most brutal and fanatical thugs ever prosper, and in the end they too are victims of this traumatic chaos.
It looks like the Hong Kong protests are quietening down and turning into a series of talks, as nobody wants a repeat of Tiananmen. But one thing is certain, the quest for a more democratic and inclusive political system will not go away, in Hong Kong, or anywhere else in the World.