Looking through a collection of street art shared on social media from the Lebanese rebellion against corruption and inequality, I was reminded of the similar explosion in street art during the Sudanese rebellion, just a few months ago.
A quick online search came up with many more examples of powerful artworks produced as part of recent people's power movements around the world: Chile, Catalonia, Hong Kong, Brazil ... the list goes on.
It brought back feelings from a long time ago, when I was a teenager growing up through the late 1960s and ’70s: the feeling that something is in the air; that the ground is shifting and change is happening.
Back then, many young people first encountered that feeling through culture. It was pervasive in popular music and art. Discussion of social and political change seeped through the thickest walls of repression. It seemed to literally bubble up from the ground.
That is how it felt then — and how it is beginning to feel now.
That pervasive cultural mood in the ’60s and ’70s that was to become the youth culture of the era did not come from nothing. It grew out of millions of people engaged in sustained struggle over many years.
The same holds today. Behind the cultural expressions of rebellion lie real mass revolts, involving hundreds of thousands of people putting their lives on the line at the risk of beatings, pepper sprays, detention, torture or even death, particularly in the Global South.
A Palestinian friend reminded me of the great risks that today's young rebels in Iraq and Palestine face, when compared with the climate rebels in the West. The huge gap between the rights people have to protest in the rich countries and the Global South is stark.
So what chances are there of the people's movements in these two parts of the world coming together and making common cause?
I think the chances are good because, whether a people's movement is sparked by poverty, authoritarianism or the climate crisis, all these movements identify the global capitalist system as being at the heart of their problems.
Another reason is the globalisation of culture, boosted by new technologies and capitalism's drive to sell us more stuff, including stuff we do not need and cannot afford. More than ever, culture is today transmitted faster and further around the globe. And when real, sustained people's power movements emerge, its impact on popular culture is unstoppable.
There is a real rebellion taking place. It is time to choose sides.
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