Across Lebanon, Chile, Hong Kong and Iraq, people are protesting corruption, tax hikes and the political elite, often wearing Joker make-up or masks. After the Yellow Vests movements earlier this year, new protests have erupted globally. Since The Joker came out in cinemas globally, the Joker has been visible as a symbol of protests on the streets, particularly in Lebanon.

Although the reasons for protests and the ways in which people feel suppressed differ, the circulating images of police repression violence are very similar and the face popping up with more frequency is also the same across countries; the face of the Joker in Todd Philips’ recent movie, which has already hit the $850 million mark in global revenues. In September, as the movie was feared for its evocative power, cinema chains in the U.S. already banned masks, costumes and toy weapons at screenings of Joker. In Hong Kong, masks of Pepe the Frog (a symbol of the alt-right movement) and Winnie the Pooh (ridiculing the Chinese President Xi Jinping) are spotted at demonstrations and the Guy Fawkes face, from V for Vendetta, is globally still the most-used mask during protests, but the Joker has made a rapid entry. It serves as a timely symbol for vulnerable groups in society to express their feeling of being treated as or viewed as clowns. They feel that the majority of the people are not being heard by those in power, be it because of endemic corruption in Lebanon, suppression in Hong Kong or a metro fare hike in Chile. The Joker face is not necessarily politically right-wing or left-wing, but the face of vexation over social neglect by the powerful elite.

As we wrote earlier, in many countries around the world, a large part of society is not experiencing progress, while inequality is growing and wealth is concentrating around the elite. As a result, dissatisfaction with the wealthy elites who are in power is growing, corruption and precarious living conditions are becoming increasingly unacceptable.

As the IMF published in its biannual global economic outlook, after a sharp decline in economic growth in 2018, there will be no more growth this year. IMF explains how rising trade and geopolitical tensions have fueled uncertainty about the future of the global trading system and international cooperation more generally, taking a toll on business confidence, investment decisions, and global trade.

Implications:

  • The outbursts of civil unrest that have quickly erupted simultaneously and worldwide have gained attention in financial markets. For instance, they have made investors wary that the resulting pressures on stretched government finances will be one of many consequences.
  • As recovery of economic growth is not in sight, protests are not likely to end anytime soon. On the contrary, they might even inspire people in other countries that face a politically corrupt system, price hikes in basic necessities, or other forms of oppression.

RISKS MARKED ON THE RISK RADAR AS NUMBER 2: Tensions throughout the Middle-East, rising inequality

Click here to see the context of this Risk Radar.