I have lived on this Earth for a mere 20 years, and they have been the most turbulent years I could imagine. In previous generations that lived through the world wars, through the colonization of the “new” world, through the black plague--at least they knew which side they were on. At least they knew their enemies. These days we don’t know who is right or wrong, good or bad. Most days I don’t even know up from down. What I do know is that the events of this generation will be counted as a major turning point in our histories, and what we do today will matter for tomorrow.
An important first step for anything is to obtain information. We all need to understand what is happening around our world so we can each come to our own individual decisions about how to act. We can no longer trust that the media and our public officials will tell us the whole truth. It is our responsibility to actively reject information that does not represent the whole truth and to seek out credible sources for information. I can only write what I personally know and perceive, and I am just one person. I encourage you to use the links in my article and do your own research on these topics.
There are a variety of ways in which this change is manifesting. The primary one that I can see is the protests, revolts, rebellions, and revolutions which have become commonplace in the modern era.
This one particularly is close to the Seattle U community because many students and faculty were in Nicaragua when the violence (particularly on college campuses) became so intense that they were required to return home. In April of 2018 protests began around the country, at first they were in response to unjust changes in government programs but the protests developed into statements against general government corruption. This corruption includes the efforts by the President Daniel Ortega to consolidate power by any means necessary. The protests became extremely violent, over 300 people have been killed many of them students. As a result of the violence and fearing retaliation for protesting, thousands have fled to the neighboring Costa Rica. On 29 September 2018, President Ortega declared political demonstrations illegal and has been utilizing a “clean up effort” to snuff out any last strongholds of the opposition party. The UN has condemned the government’s actions in Nicaragua and the US has implemented sanctions against the country. How this will further develops is still unknown.
For the past 6 years there has been a major decline in the quality of life in Venezuela, evidenced by high inflation, a severe lack of food and medicine, and a severe lack of government organization and social service systems. These indignities and this overt lack of deference to basic human rights have led to mass protests, arrests, and deaths on both sides of the issue. For over a week in March the stress and violence was intensified by a nationwide blackout which completely shut down water service, hospitals, and life in general. Government-backed forces have set up barricades at the borders and prevented people from leaving via air. However, on April 2nd thousands broke through one of the main barriers and fled the country. Despite the many attempts by the international community to provide aid in the form of food, medicine, and doctors, every attempt has been vehemently refused by the Maduro administration. The main issue at present is that there is no central power; both Nicolas Maduro and Juan Guaido declared themselves president in 2018 after a highly controversial election. Right now Maduro is being back by Russia and Guaido by the US. There are fears that all of the major international players involved in this could play out in the same way that the Syrian conflict did when Russia backed Bashar Assad and the US backed the Kurdish forces.
Yellow vest related protests have taken place almost every weekend since September of 2018, and the violence has only escalated because the government has refused to bend to the will of the people. I expect that the burning of Notre Dame will affect the protest in the coming weeks, as well as how the government will respond to them. On April 15th President Macron was supposed to make a major speech in relation to the protests. However, it was canceled due to the fire at the Notre Dame. For a more thorough explanation, I encourage you to read my article on the movement which I wrote back in December.
Probably the most well-known aspect of the Sudanese revolution is the image of the young woman in white. That would be Alaa Saleh, a 22-year-old student. She told the press that, "Sudanese women have always participated in revolutions in this country. If you see Sudan's history, all our queens have led the state. It's part of our heritage. I'm very proud to take part in this revolution and I hope our revolution will achieve its goal.” What you don’t see (or hear) from the image is that in that movement, Saleh was leading the protestors in a song. She would sing a line of the history and power of female revolutionaries in Sudan and the crowd would respond with a cry of “revolution”. On April 11th, when the military joined the people in their protests, the president, Omar Bashir, was forcibly removed from power in what is being called a military coup. The question now is: what comes next? Could the people organize and elect a true democratic representative or will this revolution end like so many others--with a military dictatorship?
Although it is one of the most difficult ways to affect change, legislation is proven to be the most effective in its ability to create tangible long lasting change. It takes time and effort, long legal battles in courtrooms and on parliamentary/congressional floors. However, the results are clear.
The historic overturn of a constitutional abortion ban in South Korea could prove to be a major stride towards legalizing safe and freely accessible family planning in nations around the world. Relevant is the fact that the education of women and their ability to access family planning is the single most successful method to improving a community’s economy, politics, health, and social systems.
After the tragic shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand it took a mere 26 days for the government to institutionalize a nationwide ban on semiautomatic weapons. Compared to the embarrassing lack of action on the part of the US government one can only hope that such quick and just responses to tragedy will become the norm.
A statement to sum this all up is, “I don’t know.” I honestly don’t know. The truth is a fickle thing, it is living, it is a non-newtonian fluid, it doesn’t even really exist. We all can only do the best we can to be aware of what is happening in the world, be aware of how people are talking about it, and be aware of what power we have to affect positive change in the situation. We are not saviors, or warriors, or gods; we are all just humans. We must speak our truth, be willing to accept other people’s truths, and be active members of our society. You must ask yourself, “when they are written down in history books, what will future generations think of my actions today?”