Saturday, December 10, 2011

Scenes of Political Convergence

As I write this, Russia’s western cities are seeing the biggest political rallies since the fall of the Soviet Union. The rallies, in the aftermath of a stolen election, have drawn 100 times as many participants as political observers had predicted.

The election in question is a parliamentary election, but the political discussion has echoes of past presidential votes voided by political elites in Iran and the United States. Signs and chants speak of corrupt old men, decaying institutions, and stolen votes.

It is a measure of the success of globalization that the same political problems and actions can pop up in all corners of the world simultaneously. Recent scenes in St. Petersburg are indistinguishable from those in Oakland. This makes Russian government claims that the United States is behind the unrest on the streets of Russia ring especially hollow. If that were the case, then who is behind the identical protests on the streets of the United States and thirty other countries? The fact that Russian leaders are parroting the complaints of the regime in Iran make their comments all the more comical.

The common suggestion that political corruption is the cause of the popular protests is equally implausible. The United States government has sought to draw some distance between itself and corrupt business interests in the last six years, while the government in Russia has drawn ever closer to its corrupt and criminal commercial supporters, yet in both places, along with many others, the protests are happening now.