Paul Jacob

While Americans appear mildly unsettled or perhaps “ticked off” about recent government revelations, elsewhere in the world citizens move from “unease” to “unrest” and outright “protest.”

The demonstrations that erupted recently in Turkey and then in Brazil and elsewhere are, we are told, filled with the ranks of the young, not a few of whom have noticed something: They are getting a raw deal.

Welcome to the club. We, the citizens of the modern states, whether First World or backwater, are indeed getting raw deals.

Many of the issues of protestors overseas are of the meat-and-potato variety: lack of jobs, burdensome student debts and, in Brazil, a bus-fare rate increase made ugly in the context of cost overruns in taxpayer-supported World Cup and Olympics events.

Earlier, young Turks protested, at first modestly, over planning for a park, but a harsh police crackdown led to more widespread marches, sit-ins, and demonstrations — which now often bring up questions of the current administration’s repressive anti-modernist, anti-freedom agenda.

This more inspirational theme resonates elsewhere, too.

In Bulgaria the issue most protested appears to be police brutality, along with the general spirit of repression. In Latin America, opposition to corruption has moved from old stand-by to vital question of the day.

Actually, the Brazilian protests follow a year of Argentine protests. Nevertheless, to some observers they seem to have “come out of nowhere.” But they are strong: an excess of a million people took to the streets last week, amidst calls for a “general strike” this week.

Unfortunately, no matter how legitimate complaints may be, when a mob forms, violence and looting tend to occur, especially when the mobs consist predominantly of the young.

Nineteen-ninety-nine’s infamous “battle in Seattle” anti-WTO protests provided an excuse for a contingent of “anarchists” to break windows and steal merchandise. Similarly, the Occupy sit-ins encouraged the young and the socially marginal to break laws . . . not merely as protest, but also of a more standard, run-of-the-mill crime variety: vandalism, assault and even rape.

As if to conform to a standard, violence has broken out in Brazil, as well. President Dilma Rousseff claims that her people “cannot live with this violence that shames Brazil,” calling for a crackdown on “every form of violence and vandalism.”

Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.