Curtain Raiser

Make or Break Democracy, Colltalers

‘Violent clashes,’ an expression being increasingly applied to describe the unrest in Hong Kong, may now be also used to protests in Catalonia and Chile. Despite their own particulars, what’s driving thousands to the streets is essentially a fight for democracy.
Which is also the motivation behind Saturday’s massive anti-Brexit rally in London. Demanding a new referendum, protesters have disrupted Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s power consolidation, which’s dependent on the U.K. exiting the European Union.
It may sound presumptuous to see the pursuit of true democracy as the ultimate goal for crowds marching for self-determination, from China and Spain, or against high costs of living, in Chile. But just as climate change, income inequality, fair immigration and asylum laws, and women’s and minorities’ rights, only a healthy democratic process assures that the people’s voice is heard.
Let’s break here for other news of the past week, even if not exactly good news for all involved. Syria-based Kurds, for instance, who the U.S. President’s thrown under the mortal artillery of Turkish’s warplanes, in a historic act of betrayal, are now being backed by two leaders notorious for their own betrayals: Vladimir Putin and Bashar al-Assad. Two foxes guarding the henhouse.
In fact, the Kurds must know by now that they continue in peril since this is not the first time that they’ve been betrayed by the U.S. and others, or served as proxies for settling other nations’ scores. In Kurdish, the word ‘luck’ probably has another meaning.
Meanwhile, guess what? the Brazilian Amazon Rainforest is still burning, and summer may spell tragedy by finishing it off. President Bolsonaro is so entangled with petty vendettas against enemies,

that he seems to have set himself to achieve only one thing: to make his English language-challenged son into an ambassador to the U.S. Even on that, though, he’s badly failing.
Going back to the headlines, for those wondering about China’s perceived ‘silence,’ or measured approach to HK protests, it may indeed have a sinister reason: facial recognition. As one of the most enthusiastic adopters of AI surveillance, along pretty much the rest of the world, Chinese authorities may be taking their time to identify and go after each of the thousands of protesters.
Just as they defied over the weekend a face mask ban, water cannons, and tear gas thrown by police, armed with Molotov-like bombs, China’s plans to use software and crowd-watching devices, provided in part by Jeff Bezos’ Amazon, to go after activists. President Xi Jinping himself sounded scary by promising ‘crush bones and shatter bodies’ of dissidents, during his visit to Nepal.
Defiance is also the mark of Barcelonians protesting the jail sentences, some over a decade long, issued by Spain to nine leaders of the independence movement that emerged two years ago. The region’s president Quim Torra has called for talks with the Spanish government as the rallies enter their seven consecutive day marked by increased violence, and hundreds of injured.
Spain’s evident mishandling of the separatist movement may be at blame for the protesters’ intolerance. But Catalonia may no longer see the same past support from the world to its aspirations either, mainly because things have changed in these two years.
Perhaps just as dramatically, mankind needs to pull together to face the planetary threat of climate change. Barcelona’s longing for independence runs counter to that global aim, especially because unlike Kurds and Palestinians, it always had its own land.
As for the students rallying against Chile’s recent commuting rates increase, it may signal something else entirely: a resurgence of a protest movement against its conservative society and a nation that works hard to forget its own bloody Sept. 11 (of 1973) and what it really meant to its future. And that, despite two successful presidential terms of ex-political exile Michelle Bachelet.
About the U.K.’s all but sure exit from the E.U., it’s turning out to be a story about false promises, deceiving statements, phony outrage, and a nation on a profound crisis of confidence. In other words, all that Boris Johnson ever dreamed of. Every day has been another chance for him to prove that Trump is no longer the latest to enter the Hall of Shame for despicable human beings.
Our children are the living messages we send to a future we will ever see. Will we rob them of their destiny? Will we rob them of their dreams? No, we will not do that.‘ Elijah Cummings, a U.S. Representative from Maryland who died last week at 68, was a compassionate giant and civil rights activist, a son of a sharecropper with a distinguished but short-lived career in Congress.
Before passing, he was collecting evidence for the impeachment process against the U.S. president and was viciously insulted by him. But unlike his over-privileged and likely criminal foe, his legacy and moral rectitude were not or will ever be in question.
Congratulations are in order: to astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir, who had the first all-women spacewalk in history. And to Australian newspapers, which got to newsstands this morning heavily redacted, in protest of new laws eroding freedom of the press.
They and most of this newsletter’s content show that everything one does with purpose is meaningful. Just aim high. WC

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