Thursday, January 27, 2011

Flaming Mo's legacy

So, leaders around the arab world are all of a sudden in deep shit thanks to one Tunisian, Mohammed Bouazizi,who set himself on fire Dec. 17 in a protest, reportedly, against unemployment in his home country. Ten days ago or so, the Tunisian government fell and now there are protests shaking regimes all over North Africa and Middle East.

This eruption in some of the poorest and most corrupt countries of the world is very interesting but I seriously doubt it's going to herald in some new era of growth in that part of the world. In Egypt, for instance, where long-time dictator Hosni Mubarak seems to be in some trouble, a power vacuum would likely give rise or at least increased power to the Muslim Brotherhood. How that could be good for Egyptians - well, other than the ones who are in the Muslim Brotherhood - is beyond me. Perhaps a poll of some Coptic Christians could shed some light...

As someone whose few remaining relatives survived not only the nazis but then the communists as well before escaping to North America, I was brought up to believe totalitarianism in all its forms must be rejected. The vast majority of arab nations are run by absolute bastards but it's not like there are a bunch of democracy-touting populists waiting in the wings to raise their people from poverty and oppression. More likely would be brutal crackdowns to stabilize the existing power structure or brutal crackdowns on those opposed to whomever takes over. That is the existing legacy of the Middle East, whether we choose to admit it or not.

It's not easy to care too much about what happens to the arab street. I can't find a lot of redeeming qualities out there. I'd love to see some freedom flourish in these regressive countries but I'm way too cynical by both nature and intelligence to believe it's coming anytime soon. This isn't post-Berlin Wall Germany. In the Middle East, even when uprisings succeed, what follows is generally anything but pretty - witness Iran following the shah's ouster in 1979 or Lebanon which, as of this week, is now essentially being run by hezbollah.

On the other hand, it is nice to see them protesting something other than Israel for once.

1 comment:

Catherine said...

I've been watching the recent protests, particularly in Egypt, with interest. I'm not naive enough to believe what follows will be pretty or that there will be instant democracy, but I think there's a good chance it will turn out better than Iran in 1979. It's a very different world now. There's a huge under-30 population in Egypt, it's easier to get and to spread information thanks to the internet and mobile phones, and the young people living under these oppressive regimes know what they're missing. I've always said that if the Islamic world is going to change, that change has to come from within. People have to get fed up and fight back. And it has to start somewhere. So I'm heartened to see the people rising up, and I hope it moves them in the right direction, even if the path is long and slow and difficult.