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Not quite together


Protests are proliferating across the world. Their aim is not obvious. Nor is how much they matter.


THE aims may be incoherent, but the common threads are clear. The protests that have mushroomed in over 900 cities in 80-plus countries over the past few days have voiced few practical demands, and in some cases they actually avoid making any. Participants favour the general over the specific. They think need matters more than greed. They like decisions by consensus, distrust elites and feel that capitalism’s pains and gains are unfairly shared. Beyond that, the horizon clouds.


In many cities (notably London, which has followed the example set by Occupy Wall Street in New York) the protesters have set up encampments that are meant to last indefinitely; in others they came and went. Defining where the wave of protests started is hard. Some point to Israel, where public unhappiness focused on the cost of food, housing and education. Spain’s indignados, or indignant ones, still going strong since their start in May, have a claim too. But the protesters’ brand (not a term they would all welcome) is most firmly linked to New York. Now in its second month, the Occupy Wall Street encampment in Zuccotti Park (protesters prefer the old name of Liberty Park) is already a fixture on the tourist circuit. Visitors can start at the 9/11 Memorial on the site of the World Trade Centre, then stroll up the hill for a picture with one of the hundreds of protesters. The camp also attracts well-wishers, including famous names like Salman Rushdie, Susan Sarandon and Naomi Wolf (who was briefly arrested this week).

在很多城市(尤其是伦敦,当地抗议者们响应了纽约的占领华尔街运动)抗议者们设立了营地,打算将抗议活动进行到底。其他一些城市的抗议者们则时来时去。确定此轮抗议大潮的起源地是很困难的。在一定程度上可以说是以色列,当地人民对于飞涨的食品,住房,教育价格怨声载道。西班牙的indignados们,或者说愤怒者们的示威游行自五月份开始以来仍然没有减弱,他们也有自己的宣言。但是世界各地抗议者们的招牌(并非所有抗议者们都喜欢这个词语)和纽约抗议活动的联系最为密切。占领华尔街运动已经进入第二个月,其位于祖可蒂公园(抗议者们更喜欢自由公园这一旧称)的营地已经是旅游环形路线上的固定地标。游客们从世贸中心遗址上的9.11纪念碑出发,顺着小山走上去和众多抗议者们其中的一些人合影留念。营地也吸引了一些怀有美好祝愿的支持者,包括Salman Rushdie、Susan Sarandon、 Naomi Wolf (本周被短暂拘留)等著名人物。

In more than one sense, the protest can seem misplaced. Some of the biggest financial firms left Wall Street for midtown Manhattan years ago. Aside from the hallmark “We are the 99%”, the placards on display cover a huge range of causes, many of which have nothing to do with the underpricing of risk, moral hazard and other faults, real or imagined, of financial capitalism. Some want to tax the rich, others to decertify business schools. Hostile references to Wal-Mart and Starbucks outnumber those to any Wall Street firms.


The general tone is left-wing, though a lone youth with an “End the Fed” placard is described as a “Ron Paul person”, and the libertarian Republican presidential hopeful has at least a handful of supporters there. Doug Schoen, a pollster for the Democrats, surveyed 200 participants and found most were well to the left of the American mainstream. Virtually all (98%) say they would support civil disobedience to achieve their goals, and nearly one-third (31%) would use violence if necessary.

虽然举着“结束美联储”标语牌的一个年轻人被描述为“支持Ron Paul(共和党众议员,于2008年竞选总统失败,并计划参加2012年总统竞选。主张建立小政府,撤销美联储等许多美国政府机构,反对全民医保,曾著有《结束美联储》一书)的人”,而且Ron Paul这位有望获胜的自由意志共和党候选人拥有不少支持者,但是抗议的总体基调是偏左的。民主党民意调查员Doug Schoen调查了200位参与者后发现其中大部分人就美国主流价值观念而言思想偏左。几乎是所有人(98%)都认为他们都将采用不合作主义达成目标,几乎有三分之一(31%)的人认为有必要的话将采用暴力。

But even marginal groups can have a big impact in the right circumstances. Some 35% said they wanted the Occupy Wall Street movement to do for the Democrats what the tea party (broadly detested among the protesters) had done for the Republicans. Whether such an upheaval would ever increase a party’s electability is another question.


For many, the main aim may be to have fun. But the protest is also notable for scrupulous adherence to the sort of democratic values that Alexis de Tocqueville, a French chronicler of America, loved. A general assembly meets up to twice a day to discuss proposals from working groups. Politicians are wary of persecuting such well-disciplined gatherings and the police have largely stayed their hand. They are happily earning overtime.

对于很多人而言,主要就是目标就是玩乐。值得注意的是抗议者们认真遵循着美国编年史作家法国人Alexis de Tocqueville所推崇的民主观。他们每天召开两次大会讨论劳动群体的提议。政客们在起诉这些纪律严明的机会方面十分谨慎,警察们大部分时间都放手不管。抗议者们喜欢表现的活跃。

What exactly would winning mean?


The protesters have not said (and often seem not to know) what would make them declare victory and go home. The first practical proposal, to cancel military operations overseas to pay for a big public-works programme, caused a big row. The easiest way for the protest to develop may be through more civil disobedience. That stokes feelings of self-righteousness (and persecution) but does little to win wider support. Meanwhile, the protests’ political effect seems very uncertain. Protesters decry what they see as attempts by politicians, including Barack Obama, to curry favour with them. Union support, which could add muscle, is patchy. Unions like the Teamsters are visible in New York’s marches, but their offers of financial support are treated warily. In Spain the indignados have fanned fury with the Socialist government—thus helping the centre-right, which is set to win next month’s election.


In contrast with previous anti-globalisation protests, many of the latest ones seem to have started spontaneously. In some cases, what began as freelance events gradually linked up with protests in other cities and other countries as they gained momentum. That keeps technology-minded activists busy exchanging messages and tactics, but it does not amount to an orchestrated global push.


The scene across Europe is similar. A tent city outside St Paul’s Cathedral in London, best known for royal weddings, is festooned with slogans, chiefly bashing bankers (though one offers “free hugs”). A friendly cathedral cleric persuaded police not to move the protest, at least for now (if it becomes an eyesore, views may change). Joanna Wilde, a chatty Australian who works in tourism, says she will stay “till we get what we want”—even if, as in America, what that might be is unclear. Her pal Jan wants “more equality and empathy”. Jamie Lee, a student washing cups in a makeshift kitchen, says the camp is “the beginning of the end of global capitalism”. A ten-point list of demands blasts tax havens and the influence of business over politics.

欧洲的情况同美国差不多。著名的皇室婚礼举行地圣保罗教堂外支起了一个个帐篷,帐篷上面贴满了标语,标语的主要内容都是抨击银行家的(但也有一个上面写着“免费拥抱”)。一位有好的教堂神职人员劝说警方不要把抗议者们赶走,至少因为现在时机不合适(如果抗议活动变成政府的眼中钉,人们的观点可能会改变)。在旅游行业工作的健谈的澳大利亚人Joanna Wilde说在“得不到我们想要的”她就不离开。尽管她这样说,“我们想要的”同在美国一样,获取不清楚是什么。她的朋友Jan希望“更加平等,更加相通”。在一个临时帐篷里洗杯子的学生Jamie Lee说抗议活动是全球资本主义瓦解的开始。一个列有十个要求的清单上批判避税天堂和商业对于政治的影响。

Protests in Germany (where a small tent city now nestles under the shadow of the European Central Bank in Frankfurt) are more middle-class and even more focused. They have unleashed an overdue debate on the country’s universal banks. A 20-year-old called Wolfram Siener bested two leading financiers on television. Wolfgang Sch?uble, the finance minister, said the protests should be taken seriously. Sigmar Gabriel, leader of the opposition Social Democrats, said banks and the financial markets had worked “massively against the common good”—because politicians let them. (He was in government until October 2009.) Attac Deutschland, a longer-standing anti-globalisation group, joined up with Occupy Frankfurt. They want to tax wealth and bank profits, and to break up big banks.

德国的抗议活动(在法兰克福的欧洲中央银行大楼下支起了一个小型帐篷城)的参与者多来自中产阶级,而且目标更加集中。他们引发了一场就该国全能银行迟来的辩论。20多岁的Wolfram Siener在电视辩论中打败了两位著名的金融界人士。财政部长Wolfgang Sch?uble认为应该认真对待此次抗议活动。在野党社会民主党党首Sigmar Gabriel(2009年10月份之前他一直在政府就职)认为银行和金融市场“极力破坏公共利益”,因为是受政客们所使。长期的,全球化组织Attac Deutschland参加了“占领法兰克福”运动。他们希望对富人和银行利润征税,解散大银行。

Italy is very different. Banks there have not needed bailing out. Discontent among young Italians stems rather from burning resentment at the lack of opportunity in an economy that has been at a virtual standstill for more than ten years. But that does not explain the violence. Minutes after the start of a peaceful march by several tens of thousands through the centre of Rome, masked protesters looted a supermarket, defiled a church, set cars alight and battled police in a square near a cathedral. A crude bomb planted outside a bank badly injured a peaceful protester who tried to move it to safety. Italy’s interior minister, Roberto Maroni, rightly noted that the clashes could have been lethal. A detachment of riot police narrowly escaped from an armoured van that was set alight by the protesters and exploded.

意大利的情况不同。当地银行不需要政府纾困。实际上意大利经济已经十多年都停滞不前,人们对于缺少发展机会表示愤恨,意大利年轻人的不满则更是因此不满。但这并不是暴力活动的原因。成年上万的人在罗马市中心和平游行几分钟后,一些头戴面具的抗议者们就抢劫了一家超市,践踏了一所教堂,烧毁了车辆,在一大教堂附近的广场上同警察产生冲突。一个放置在银行外面的土炸弹把一个试图将其运走的和平示威者炸成重伤。意大利内政部长Roberto Maroni说的很正确,这些冲突可能是致命的。一个被抗议者点燃后爆炸的装甲小货车险些夺走了一个制止暴乱的警察小分队的人的性命。

Some blame poor work by police demoralised by pay cuts. Mr Maroni wants tougher powers against protests and the mayor has banned marches for a month. Some blame communities of far-leftists who are mostly ex-squatters. One in Turin, called Askatasuna, carried a statement on its website that celebrated mass resistance and “sacred rage” against austerity.


Two dangers await the campers. One is capture by outsiders, either opportunistic or batty, who wish to revive Trotskyism or bash America. Such causes may draw more support from enthusiasts, but for the mainstream that merely worries about reckless banks and a sagging economy, they make the protests look tired and familiar, not new and fresh.


The second danger is that the protest consumes its own energy. Managing a large camp site in a city centre means mundane attention to detail, from toilets to rules on loud music, drugs, smoking and drinking. Keeping going will get harder as the weather chills. On top of that come the problems of managing proceedings in what is in effect a huge debating society, in which everyone has a say, and speeches are relayed by “human microphones”—chanted sentence by sentence by the participants. All that gets tedious after a while.


The protests’ vague message chimes with a public sense of unfocused dismay. But this is not yet having any clear effect on politics, or the wider course of events. Crucially, most protests lack the sort of support from organised labour that crippled Greece this week. Only if that changes can they be a threat to elected governments. The protesters can occupy world’s financial markets physically, but they have not shown they can spook them. However if doubts grow about the ability of governments in Spain or Italy to enforce tax rises and spending cuts, the result could be a collapse in lenders’ confidence. With more muscle behind them, the protesters could yet change the world, though the shift might not be to anyone’s advantage.


1. proliferate v. 扩散 2. consensus n.舆论 3. encampment n.宿营 4. underprice v.使价格定低的太多 5. disobedience n. 不服从 6. military adj. 军事的 7.cathedral n. 大教堂 8. detachment n. 分离, 分遣队 9. have effect on … 对……有影响

重点单词   查看全部解释    
alight [ə'lait]


vi. 落下,走下,偶然发现 adj. 燃烧的,点亮的

capture ['kæptʃə]


vt. 捕获,俘获,夺取,占领,迷住,(用照片等)留存<

sacred ['seikrid]


adj. 神圣的,受尊重的

stroll [strəul]


n. 闲逛,漫步
v. 闲逛,漫步

violence ['vaiələns]


n. 暴力,猛烈,强暴,暴行

previous ['pri:vjəs]


adj. 在 ... 之前,先,前,以前的

enforce [in'fɔ:s]


vt. 实施,执行,强制,强迫,加强

opportunity [.ɔpə'tju:niti]


n. 机会,时机

threat [θret]


n. 威胁,凶兆
vt. 威胁, 恐吓

discontent [diskən'tent]


n. 不满
adj. 不满的


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