"Ev’rywhere I hear the sound of marching,
charging feet, boy
Cause summers here and the time is right for fighting in the street, boy . . .
Hey! think the time is right for a palace
But where I live the game to play is compromise solution
Cause in sleepy london town
There’s just no place for a street fighting man."
Stones, "Street Fighting Man" (1968) (reacting to unrest in the
streets of the US and Europe)
wants to be a prophet – not of bad news these days, anyway. But, a disturbing pattern may be
emerging. What do: 1) the Arab Spring
Uprisings; 2) the London (and formerly, Paris) Riots, and, 3) the newly
emerging phenomenon of Flash Mobs, all have in common? You guessed right, the use of Social Media in
ways not previously envisioned. Second
question: what is the first thing that governments turn off when fighting in
the streets begins? That’s right: the Internet
and Social Media.
The stage is
set. Misery is still in strong supply in
this 21stC era of new limitations on everything. High unemployment and certain cultures and
societies where far too many teens and twenty-somethings (the ‘Millennial
Generation’) have no hope of a job, education, or a better life, make for a
future lost generation. There is only so
long that one can be unproductive and ‘outside the system’ before there is no more
rational hope left of getting back in.
MySpace, LinkedIn, and many other communication and, what we now are calling,
"Social Media," technologies – if you are not familiar with them, your kids and
grandchildren surely are – have become a Millennial Generation meeting place
and rallying point, like town squares were in much of 19thC America. Witness:
"A flash mob in Germantown, Maryland robbed a local 7-Eleven
store in under one minute Saturday night. …"
(International Business Times,
Regardless of your stance on raising government debt ceilings
or taxes, there is agreement on the facts that: 1) the gap between wealth and
poverty is widening dramatically; 2) we are in a worldwide economic disaster
and there is not yet light at the end of this tunnel, and; 3) unemployment
statistics for the Millennial Generation, particularly minorities, are
appalling. A Rutgers
University study defines the Millennial Generation as: "composed of young people born
between 1977 and 1997. Of the 75 million
12-29 year olds in the United States today, there are 41.9 million 18-29 year
olds." A 2010 Pew
Research Poll counted 50 Million Americans between the ages of 18 and 29: "They
are more educated than their elders, also more likely to be unemployed or
underemployed, and they believe in government. . . ."
In approximately October of 2010 "among teenagers, for
instance, even the narrowest measure of unemployment stood at roughly 27
percent." (March 2010, Atlantic article).
Historians will note that
the government of Egypt was literally overthrown by the use of Social Media –
we are safe to conclude that after seeing on our flat screens this Summer the
caged, former leader, Mr. Mubarak (fourth President of Egypt, from 1981 to
2011) lying in his hospital bed, flanked by his two sons, on
trial for killing hundreds of protesters last Spring. And, in Greece, they were rioting in
opposition to sorely needed austerity measures.
The brave protesters of
Syria are being mowed down by their own government, but, somehow, have managed
to keep coming out on the streets to protest (we can only see what they are doing via
Social Media, as journalists are barred while Syria cannibalizes its youth) –
Iran too. Morocco has also changed
governments as a direct result. The
London (and not so long ago, Paris) riots featured hordes of young people made
anonymous in ‘hoodies,’ ravaging that venerable city and others, all
logistically situated where they wanted to be to inflict mass damage and throw
incredible fear, along with the proverbial monkey wrench, into the working of
British society by virtue of their coordinated use of Social Media.
Put it all together, and
the warnings that we are beginning to hear about the possibility of similar,
coming Trouble in the Streets of America
suggest to me that we too could be in for some of the same. And, if it does come here – and I fear that it is on the way here – it will be coordinated by the use of Social
Media – that program, or programs, which your kids (and grandchildren) maddeningly
toy endlessly with on their smart phones while you try to get their attention. But, now, it is not just a random Tweet about
‘what are you eating,’ or some other communication of the awfully mundane,
Are we ready for this? Was London ready? We cannot even field enough white-gloved and
be-whistled Traffic Cops during gridlock periods on the WestSide of LA, where
the 5-mile drive from Santa Monica to
Century City, or Beverly Hills, can take an hour or more at the wrong time (just
wait; the kids will be back in school in a few weeks), to keep you from having
to sit through 3 or 4 green lights, while watching an intersection fully
blocked by cars. We can’t even seem to
coordinate the traffic lights to keep things moving at any rational pace.
We had better be ready,
however. Whether it comes in the form of
a Flash Mob, cleaning out a 7-11 in a minute or two, like plagues of locusts of
old, or full-on rioting, like we saw in Los Angeles back in the early 90’s,
after Rodney King’s acquittal, all the signs are there. And, it sure doesn’t help to have the
swaggering Texas Governor, and latest GOP candidate for the 2012 Presidential
election, Rick Perry, accusing Fed Reserve Chairman Bernanke of Treason, and threatening
violence if he were to come to Texas.
The kind of folks who can, and will, take to the streets surely do not
need to be egged on.