Insurgencies and the threat of repolarization

Joaquina Pires-O’Brien

Social networking tools undoubtedly propelled people to form the crowds that gathered in cities all over Brazil in June. A demonstration on Thursday 5 June in São Paulo over an increase in bus fares has since spread to many other cities across the entire country and has picked up additional grievances in the process. President Rousseff appeared to be keen to listen to the protesters and even proposed a referendum to change the Constitution to accommodate a political reform, which she believes would sort out corruption in Congress. Whether Brazilian society has enough civil organizations to facilitate the public debate on the real problems that affect Brazil remains to be seen. The real threat of attempting to put things right too quickly is the repolarization of society around a 21st century version of the old Right-Left split, which could create more problems than it would solve. The evidence that this threat is real is the discourse of some protesters insisting on solutions that involve more government rather than less.

In their 2013 book The new Digital Age (reviewed in this edition) Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen, who work for Google, not only predicted that social networking was going to increase the number of popular insurgencies around the world but they also predicted that governments would also adopt a strategy of “if-you-can’t-beat-‘em-join-‘em”. The latter would include infiltrating the cyber world to keep an eye on potential uprisings. Lately, Google and other technology companies have been accused of helping the American government to mine information in order to stay abreast of security threats. All of them have insisted that they do so only by means of a court order.

The Cold War and how Third and Fourth World countries became its fighting grounds is the subject of the book Small war, far away places, by Michael Burleigh, also reviewed in this edition. Burleigh’s account of the bloody conflicts of this period should be taken as a warning to all countries in Africa and Latin America.
July 2013

Pires-O’Brien, J. Insurgencies and the threat of repolarization. Editorial. PortVitoria. UK, v. 7, Jul-Dec, 2013. ISSN 2044-8236.