Political Science Professors Discuss Recent Protests
Published: Friday, November 18, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, May 2, 2012 13:05
On Nov. 7, the Political Science Department at Salem State University hosted a roundtable discussion titled “2011: A Year in Protest.”
Daniel Mulcare, assistant professor of political science, hosted the event. The roundtable was made up of Annette Chapman-Adisho, assistant professor of history, Elizabeth Coughlan, associate professor of political science, and Richard Levy, professor of political science. They offered their perspectives on the Arab Spring uprisings, the political turmoil in Greece, and the Occupy Wall Street Movement.
Professor Chapman-Adisho started the discussion on the history and linkages between the various Arab Spring protests. She gave a brief synopsis on the history of political dissent in Egypt, starting with the period when the British occupied Egypt in 1919. At that time, England severely limited the participation Egyptians could have in their government, denying them representation at the Paris Peace Conference, controlling their foreign policy, and deporting nationalist activists.
Chapman-Adisho stated that Egypt entered an age of generals in the 1950s and that ended with the fall of Hosni Mubarek. Egyptians never had a chance to establish their own democracy, and often fell victim to outside forces who established repressive regimes. She added by saying that today, it’s impossible to tell when the military rulers of Egypt will let the Egyptians have democracy.
The revolutions hit Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya all at the same time, but it affected each of them differently. Each revolution is made up of different people, with different political ideas and complaints, and they’ll all build different countries. Chapman-Adisho urged the people in attendance to “seek out information we aren’t getting in the media.”
Coughlan added to the discussion by talking about the political protests in Greece, which have stemmed from the country’s recent economic collapse. According to Coughlan, one of the major contributing factors to Greece’s economic woes was the fact that Greece was given loans it wouldn’t have qualified for if it weren’t part of the Eurozone, which is made up of 17 European countries that all share the euro as their currency.
Since it is in the Euro-zone, it was given the same interest rate and credit that stronger economies in the Euro-zone, like France and Germany, were given. Coughlan stated that giving uniform credit to the Euro-zone was not the best decision because each country in the Euro-zone has unique fiscal policies.
Coughlan said that a main complaint from Greek protestors is the sentiment that outside forces are dictating their current situation and they lack democratic participation. The International Monetary Fund has offered Greece an austerity package that would help pay off their debt, but would force Greece to severely cut social programs. Coughlan said that this leaves the Greeks feeling cheated, because they’re losing social welfare programs that they’re usually accustomed to, and they weren’t the ones who had acted fiscally irresponsible.
Levy’s topic was on the Occupy Movement, specifically Occupy Boston, which he said he has been actively engaged in. Levy started his discussion on the idea that America has a long history of rebellions, using Shay’s Rebellion, the Whiskey Rebellion, and the protests that grew out of the Depression and the 1960s.
Levy said that the Occupy Movement is now in 100 cities worldwide. He wanted to make it clear that this is a movement, not an organization, which is why it doesn’t have a specific message. Levy stated the Occupy Boston group acts as a horizontal democracy, and that it has a slow and open decision making process.
To enact a vote in the Occupy Boston movement, 75 percent of the members need to agree on it. So far, Occupy Boston has raised $30,000, most of which is going to winterizing tents. The money has come from small donations and unions.
He added that he has seen a diverse population at the Occupy Boston protests and it’s not uncommon to see an age range from teenagers to people in their fifties.
Levy said he can’t predict where the movement is heading, but he believes it has done well. He listed the Occupier’s accomplishments as five billion dollars being moved from big banks to smaller credit unions or local banks, the majority of Americans having a positive view of the Occupy Movement, and Bank of America dropping their attempts to charge for the use of their debit cards.