“Revolt is as necessary for a people as is loyalty. It is not even disastrous that a rebellion should fail – truly calamitous, is that an entire generation would pass without protest.”
NP van Wyk Louw, “Loyal Resistance”
Whilst Counting Coins is not a political platform, we do aim to cover all the factors that might have an influence on your finances, of which politics is necessarily one.
As we’ve seen in the past few months, political kerfuffle inevitably has an immediate effect on the ups and downs of the value of the rand and, consequently, also on your pocket.
Political upheaval and Joe Public
No matter how often we hear that fluctuations in the market frequently stem from changes in the political sphere, the divide between the average man on the street and politicians seems to be a chasm with no bridge.
No matter how often we hear that fluctuations in the markets affect us directly, all the numbers and jargon make it feel like these are things that happen in a different realm, somewhere far away from the real world.
The fact of the matter is that the evaluations of credit ratings agencies are deeply connected with the political climate of a country, and the way that these agencies perceive a country has far-reaching consequences for its citizens and their day-to-day. Junk status is not an exaggerated term; it is a genuine threat that is not remedied quickly.
What leads to protest?
In an article for the London School of Economics and Political Science, professor Jacquelien van Stekelenburg, Head of the Sociology Department at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, says that grievances and feelings of relative deprivation are at the core of any protest, and feeling like you belong to a group which you perceive as deprived often helps with engagement in protest. Social identity theory states that people will protest when they feel like the group is being threatened or is powerless.
The danger here is that citizens might only start protesting in their masses when hardship has seeped into every fold of the fabric of society: when it is not something that only affects the edges where things are already a little frayed.
The power of protest
Van Stekelenburg says that the effectiveness of a protest depends on certain factors, among these:
• whether it happens in a democratic regime
• whether the state is open to listen the issues that are being protested
• whether protestors have the support of political allies
Still, the outcome of any given protest remains difficult to predict, and the psychology behind protest has an important role here: emotions and online and real-life social networks both drive protest in different ways.
How to be socially aware
Considering all the factors that typically lead to protest, it is clear that staying informed is key. You don’t need to be an economist to know when the economic state of a nation is on shaky ground: when Moody’s, Standard and Poor’s and Fitch are mentioned so often that they start sounding like people you know, alarm bells should sound. But what, if anything, can the average citizen do to protest in such a way as to make a tangible difference?
• Do not bury your head in the sand.
• Do not keep quiet about injustice of any kind. Voice your concerns in public and use social media to project them.
• Do not consider yourself immune to the economic consequences of high-level corruption. You are not and nobody is.
• If you can, donate money to campaigns and organisations that keep ordinary citizens informed and aware of the consequences of high-level corruption.
• If you can’t donate money, donate your time, become an active member of your community, and inform others of these consequences.
• Wherever it’s possible, take part in peaceful public protests against corruption and injustice. There is real power in numbers.
Not sure what consequences the current political ructions might hold for the country? Magda Wierzycka, CEO of Sygnia, explains them at length here, and we urge you to take note. The price of apathy is simply too high.