OPINION

Authority losing its legitimacy

The more the ?I won?t pay? movement protesting rising toll costs and transport ticket prices grows, the louder the voices condemning it and demanding laws and measures to suppress it. Refusing to pay is not, of course, a solution. One interesting observation about this movement is that it is emerging from among those who normally champion law and order. The other is a question as to why so many and such diverse groups of citizens are taking part in something that until recently they would have seen as being beneath them. This movement is not just about scrimping, challenging the state?s tolerance or being trendy. It is a reaction to the imposition of conditions that have signified a drop in incomes through arbitrary and unfair measures, such as, for example, high toll rates for highways that have yet to be constructed and a hefty increase in the price of public transportation.

Arbitrary and unjust measures have been imposed in the past without, however, provoking a wave of reaction. The specific difference is that today the measures are being taken not just amid a severe economic crisis, but also at a time of when authority (real instead of institutional) is rapidly and increasingly losing legitimacy. Public opinion polls confirm that more and more citizens believe that the existing political system does not function in the best interest of society. Citizens have been shaken up by the reality of the debt crisis crashing down on them not soon after they had been assured by their politicians that the economy was strong.

Society may not be blameless, but the truth is that the rot always starts at the top. This does not refer only to previous governments, but equally to the current one as well. Here is one of many examples we have seen that this government as well, cannot be counted on: One year ago, in an effort to placate reactions to a massive increase in road tax, the prime minister had pledged that the extra cost would be offset by the cost this year. His promise bounced back like a bad check.

When legitimate forms of protest fail to bring any results and when governments behave in an unreliable manner, it is normal for citizens to feel compelled to seek justice in other, more unorthodox ways. The ?I won?t pay? tactic, however, only leads to another deadlock, so the government must open its ears to these protestors so they back down. Listening and understanding is the only way, because any attempt to quell the movement by force or by legal means may prove to have a boomerang effect.