Dissent, Protest, and Revolution: The New Europe in Crisis
Despite the shortfall of potential in the cards for the European protest movement, the protestors need not have acted in vain. The historical analysis and lesson associated with such a significant political event should not be ignored. Instead, intellectuals and academics who study and interpret the events of history and current political struggles need to recognize the populace already asking the necessary overarching questions for the contemporary political age.
The threat remains in the loss of the political reigns of social-democratic governance to the rise of right wing parties in Europe. The left cannot afford to ignore the demands of protestors and radical leftists, but more importantly it cannot also allow itself to be split and lose electoral abilities in the European parliament. If the values and identity of Europe are to truly be upheld, intellectuals must resist the urge to succumb to totalitarian temptation in the face of social democracy’s “ambivalent and slack” response to the questions raised by protestors (Wolin 2011).
To completely cede politics and the progress Europe has made “implies a return to the darkest hour of twentieth-century European history: the hour of the ethnocentric or ‘racial state’ . . . European political culture must stress and nurture these values in order to offset the seductions and temptations of the new illiberalism of the ethnopopulist credo” (Wolin 2011). While the ‘postmodern’ tendencies of the new generation’s approach to politics may not offer a sound alternative, the general recognition that not all modernization brings ‘progress’ remains an important lesson for the political thinkers and actors of the future.
Though the protestors may be asking the question ‘Who is to blame’ the role of intellectuals must be the follow up question ‘What is the remedy?’ Without those who can engage that question thoroughly using the institutions in place, the answer may never arise. Each particular movement studied in this paper has a different answer. How can those answers be learned from and synthesized will immediately affect the prospects of an economic and politically stable Europe.
The protest movement rightly identifies a growing feeling in the American youth that neither the democrats nor the republicans have any answers. Yet, there cannot be a half-hearted rage against the systems inadequacies without a simultaneous movement within academia to call for action and thought together. This paper is of personal, national and global importance, but the people in a position to actually change political structures need to also step up. There must not be content with letting the dissent in Europe, and increasingly across the globe, become a misnomer of history.
Winston Churchill famously claimed, “Democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.” The international economic turmoil has the potential to destroy the “moral and institutional foundations of [our] social democracy” (Taylor 2008). Will we also ignore the increasing recognition by the protestors of this generation that the world really is teetering in the balance?
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