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DAY OF RAGE January 26, 2011

Posted by wmmbb in Middle East, North Africa.
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Tuesday, we are told, was a day of rage in Cairo, Alexandria and Port Suez among perhaps other Egyptian cities.

Juan Cole qualifies these events by observing that Egypt is not Tunisia, and what has played out in Tunisia will not unfold in the same way in Egypt. I notice the reports are suggesting that popular protests are violent, without acknowledging that the violence is real but on the fringes, and that the authorities in Egypt, favourite torture destination for the Empire, monopolize violence. The fact that thousands of people were moved to take to the streets and confront the State violence head on has a powerful negating effect, and probably means that Mubarak is now finished. As we see elsewhere, and as has been the case in Egypt, in such circumstances the system simply repackages it image with a different set of leaders and life goes on as before. And, I would suggest, the real significance of Tunisia was that this was no allowed to happen.

Paul Rogers at Open Democracy suggests that events in Tunisia and Egypt should be seen in a global interconnection. He writes:

What is happening on a world scale is that economic growth is being accompanied by a deepening socio-economic divide (see “China and India: heartlands of global protest”, 7 August 2008). The financial problems of the last three years have not resulted in even the most limited improvements in financial regulation. Instead it is business as usual, with what amounts to a double elite emerging (see “Inequality: The rich and the rest”, Economist, 20 January 2011).

Across the world, around 1.5 billion people out of a world population of almost 7 billion are doing well, but at the expense of the rest who are seeing very little improvement in their standards of living (see Foresight, Global Food and Farming Futures, 24 January 2011). Within that large and comfortable elite there is a super-elite where the levels of wealth are grotesque, and this last group is the focus of most of the anger (see “A world in breakdown”, 13 January 2011).

The relevance of Tunisia to this larger picture is that the uprising has come from a complex mix of economic problems involving food-price rises and high unemployment together with a hatred of an autocratic and plutocratic regime that has exercised violent control of public order for decades. The key question is whether this is a significant marker for likely future events, as a different phenomenon such as the Naxalites in India have proved to be (see “A world on the margin”, 20 May 2010).

Tunisia may be significant because it is one of a cluster of countries that combine elitist regimes with rapid population growth and economic stagnation. This shared experience helps explain the emergence of further unrest across the region – and state attempts to prevent, deflect, and mollify it. In this delicate moment, most governments may calculate that – even though divisions will likely widen further in the next decade – they can maintain control.

Where this assessment begins to come apart is that the world community is facing not just a dangerous socio-economic divide, but profound environmental constraints as well. The most potent of these is climate change, though the impact of peak oil may not be far behind.

ELSEWHERE:

Human beings have it seems for ever been connected by communication and the technology to facilitate that purpose, which seems for some strange reason an orchestrating purpose among the species. So it is that success and failures of the Egyptian Governments to close down, slow down the new technology is of global relevance. The BBC reports that Twitter is down, but Facebook and other media remain beyond the reach of the government.

Chris Floyd makes the point the Egyptian dictatorship did not stay in power by its own wits and methods alone. It had help. I know it is ignorant and close-minded but if Obama’s speech was rhetorical exercise without practical measures then unheard that is what I expected. If the contrary were true, that would be very surprising.

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