The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

The situation in Guadeloupe has a number of particularities that make it a not-very-ideal reference to other poor places in the world. As an island, the cost of foodstuffs and necessities remains high despite the recent drop in global commodity prices. But it’s hard to read about the month-long general strike there taking a violent turn without thinking about the potential for generalized instability as a result of the global economic downturn:

The strike also is exposing racial and class tensions on islands wherea largely white elite, many the descendants of colonial settlers, makesup only 1 percent of the population but controls mostbusinesses.

That kind of downturn-fueled instability, and not terrorism, was Public Enemy No. 1 in CNI Adm. Dennis Blair’s recent report to Congress (.pdf) about the threat horizon as seen by American intelligence.

What’s significant, though, is how the global middle class, traditional driver of modern historical transformations, is the most exposed to the downturn, and is not surprisingly beginning to express its frustration with violence. Here’s 2point6billion:

Although the rich will suffer losses in revenue and equity, theywill have a cushion to fall back onto. The poor in any Asian nation areyet quite removed from the vagaries of globalization to feel the fullimpact of the downfall. It is, however, the middle class who strive toput their children into private schools, who have been affected by themass lay offs in factories and yet it is them who will guide the waynations dig their way out of the financial crisis.. . .

News reports across the world already talk of middle class andmigrant uprisings from security guards in Bangladesh to factory workersin China. As the financial crisis deepens, and the food crisis re-emerges, it’s time governments and affluent people in emerging Asia takestock of the situation. Its time they follow more socialist policiesand make sure wealth trickles down. If not, as frustration swells, itcould boil out of control.

Reminds me of a friend’s father who, whenever we’d drive by a particularly high-end mansion (pretty often, since this was in Laguna Beach, CA), would mutter, “Hate to be in there when the revolution starts.”