It’s not just politicians and TV talking heads freaking out over the financial crisis. Over in England, where hundreds of oil workers have gone on strike in recent months, police are steeling themselves for the possibility of violent protests against banks and financial institutions. In Greece last month, farmers blocked roads over falling agricultural prices. In Ireland, protesters demonstrated against higher government taxes. Last month, riots sparked by economic distress broke out in Bulgaria and Lithuania. In Iceland and Latvia, protests toppled the governments.
So far, there have been no major or violent protests in America, although this past weekend in Fort Myers, Florida, a group of wild teens did take over a foreclosed home, causing $75,000 worth of damage. While this seems highly symbolic — a foreclosed home! In the Ponzi State! Wells Fargo will have to eat it! — we suspect the act was merely enabled by, not in response to, the current economic crisis (Bud Light was involved).
But we should probably all steel ourselves for the possibility of civic unrest on a large scale in America. After all, the protests elsewhere are eerily reminiscent of the worldwide unrest that kicked off the Great Depression, when British miners and weavers went on strike, coups took place in Portugal, Brazil, Argentina, Peru, and Spain, food riots rocked the southeastern United States, Germany elected you-know-who and, as the historian Arnold Toynbee wrote, “men and women all over the world were seriously contemplating and frankly discussing the possibility that the Western system of Society might break down and cease to work.”
That said, we didn’t really cause too much of a fuss about unjust wars in foreign countries or illegal wiretapping or torture of foreign criminals. But Americans can get angry. Look what happens when they try to raise the price on our sausage.