Political unrest, which can be defined as a number of riots, strikes, and anti-government demonstrations have continued to be prevalent throughout all nations and populations. While certain aspects of society have improved vastly over the decades, political unrest continues to be prominent, if not even more active over the past few years. Though it can be traced to a number of sources, severe inequality continues to be the most influential and erratic factor at the core of political unrest.
Unrest is often the underlying feature and cause of activities such as strikes and protests. They often manifest due to concrete issues, such as the implementation of a certain policy or the action of governmental authorities. However, they almost always are driven by deeper dissatisfaction and marginalization carried by civilians. As an example, the late 2020 protests in Lebanon were economically charged. The Lebanese government had plans to implement taxes on WhatsApp calls which became the catalyst of following strikes. However, as the events progressed, it became clear that a number of underlying issues such as sectarian law, high unemployment, and the inadequacies of government-provided services deeply affected the population.
Chile experienced a similar sequence of events when an increase in subway fares were announced. While Chile has been known to be experiencing steady economic, social, and political growth and generally satisfactory governance, certain issues such as increasing costs of utility, static wages, and measly pensions affect the lives of Chileans adversely. It can be deduced that in both scenarios, citizens experience political unrest as the result of inadequate economic and social safety. Similarly, the cause of such disparities belongs to the increasing inequality experienced worldwide.
Chile’s economy is led by a collective of influential oligarchs, of which the president, Sebastián Piñera, is also a part of. Lebanon’s landscape is even more unfavorable, with the top one percent collecting approximately 25 percent of the national income. Most, if not all, nations worldwide are currently observing a decrease in the middle class as an affluent minority continues to accumulate outrageous amounts of capital either through business ventures or generational wealth. As such, the connection between social and economic inequality and political unrest becomes clear.
When the adversity is revealed to be inequality, political unrest becomes necessary and therefore a tool for those that are found in underprivileged positions. However, education is a guiding tool that can make political unrest truly effective and able to instill change. The current largest obstacle to education is similarly affected by economic disparities, with the test resources, knowledge, and materials being inaccessible to most of the population. Despite this, public education has proven to be effective in providing people within difficult circumstances with future viable options of employment and improving one’s livelihood.
Education can provide individuals, especially those in adverse economic or social situations, with tools and knowledge to navigate society in a way that allows them to elevate themselves out of a low-income background. However, this is only possible if education is free, universal, and practical. As such, it is essential that education begins to shift away from its current business model. This includes providing university and college level education based on capabilities and interest, and not a student’s financial opportunities. When the obstacle of cost is removed, many more people will be able to attain the correct tools in order to begin to bridge the growing divide between low and middle class.