June 23, 2013

David Rohde: The global middle class awakens

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"I am hopeful about the future," Hoda, a 26-year-old who asked that her last name not be used, told Reuters. "Hopeful that we will have more social freedoms, more stability in Iran, better relations with other countries and hopefully a much better economy."

Comparing political movements in different countries carries risks. Sweeping statements undercut themselves. But analogies are being made.

The protests in Brazil have been likened to India's anti-corruption movement, austerity protests in Europe and the Occupy Movement in the United States and Israel. My focus on Turkey, Brazil and Iran is driven by recent events and optimism. Positive dynamics are at work in all three.

First, the explosive spread of social media played a role in the three movements. Networks of like-minded people were able to immediately communicate with one another -- and potential recruits. Some online information has been false, but technological change has unquestionably sped up the pace of political organizing.

Second, all three demand basic individual rights and accountable government. They want non-corrupt leaders who respect their right to protest, gather and speak freely. From minority rights in Turkey, to fair elections in Iran, to improved policing, health care and transit in Brazil, protesters want improved governance.

There will be setbacks, excesses and confusion in the weeks ahead. But the burgeoning middle-class political activism in Turkey, Iran and Brazil should be hailed. Like its counterparts in developed countries, it is a check on government excess -- and will create stronger, more vibrant societies.

Maine native David Rohde is a columnist for Reuters, a two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize, and a former reporter for The New York Times and Christian Science Monitor.

 

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