Europe Riots Against … What?

Across Europe, the people are protesting. But they’re not fed up with a particular party or person. They’re rallying against the whole political system.

Between 100,000 and 200,000 people turned out to protest in Bulgaria last Sunday. That’s a lot of people for a small country—around 2 percent of the whole population. “Bulgarians rarely overcome their apathy to go out on the streets,” notes the EU Observer. “They don’t usually believe they can make a difference by protesting.”

What prompted them to turn out this time? The government had already stepped down a few days earlier. They were protesting against no one.

On the same day, in Italy, a comedian-turned-blogger-turned-politician emerged as one of the few successful figures in their parliamentary election. Beppe Grillo’s party, the Five Stars Movement, was the most successful political party—all the other leaders were at the head of coalitions.

How did the movement start from nowhere to receiving the approval of one quarter of Italy’s voters? For exactly the same reason Bulgarians turned out to protest against a nonexistent government: To voters across Europe, the political system is broken.

Each nation has its own particular scandals. But the feeling spreads beyond national borders.

Even in Germany, under the relatively scandal-free administration on Angela Merkel, the Pirate Party seemed en route to win 10 percent of the vote. Like Grillo’s party in Italy, it is made up political newbies. But with its narrower focus on the Internet and digital rights, it lacks Grillo’s wide appeal. Even so, it began receiving seven to eight percent of the vote in regional parliaments before their popularity collapsed amid internal disputes.

Why the widespread unhappiness? A big part is because the corruption is also widespread. But the euro crisis also has a major role. If politicians are getting rich dishonestly, it’s a much bigger deal when unemployment is spiraling out of the control and the nation is heading toward poverty. That makes voters much less forgiving.

But the dissatisfaction is more widespread and more deeply felt than ever before. Many feel they’ve tried all the options that their democracy gives them, and they’ve all failed.

This is how democracy dies. The political parties become dishonest and untrustworthy, and the way is opened for a charismatic outsider to come to power. It has happened before and it will happen again.

The widespread dissatisfaction doesn’t mean Europe is sailing into uncharted territory. It was explored in the 1930s and marked with “Danger, Keep Out.”

For more information on how history is repeating itself, see our article “Déjà Vu”.

Full article: Europe Riots Against … What? (The Trumpet)

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