In the United States 2.6 million jobs were lost last year. Tens of thousands more have vanished less than one month into 2009. America is not alone in this financial collapse. Iceland’s economy went bankrupt late last year. Angry Icelanders have been storming the streets in protest of their collapsed economy, as are citizens of Bulgaria and Latvia who are also experiencing financial meltdowns. Much of the anger is over the reckless handling of the economy.
Icelanders all but stormed their Parliament last night. It was the first session of the chamber after what might appear to be an unusually long Christmas break.
Ordinary islanders were determined to vent their fury at the way that the political class had allowed the country to slip towards bankruptcy. The building was splattered with paint and yoghurt, the crowd yelled and banged pans, fired rockets at the windows and lit a bonfire in front of the main door. Riot police moved in.
Now in the grand sweep of the current crisis, a riot on a piece of volcanic rock in the north Atlantic may not seem to add up to much. But it is a sign of things to come: a new age of rebellion.
The financial meltdown has become part of the real economy and is now beginning to shape real politics. More and more citizens on the edge of the global crisis are taking to the streets. Bulgaria has been gripped this month by its worst riots since 1997 when street power helped to topple a Socialist government. Now Socialists are at the helm again and are having to fend off popular protests about government incompetence and corruption.