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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Arab Spring Vs. English Summer

"We live in a world where the greed of a few has starved the many. Responsibility does not come into it." Quote from a blogger in London after I asked him if the rioters themselves bore any responsibility for what they were doing.

Last night Martin Fletcher reported that one cause for the riots in London might be the fact that a building in London sold for $42 million cash. According to Fletcher, the fact that there were multiple bidders - all bidding cash - at a time when lots of people are struggling to get by was a big factor in the robbing, looting and general mayhem.

Nonsense.

Starting in January of this year large swaths the Middle East plunged into revolution. In the long run, this is a good thing, in spite of what some on the Right in the US media might say. Let's compare the Arab Spring and the English Summer.

Generally accepted trigger:
  • Arab Spring: Fruit seller in Tunisia immolates himself after years of abuse from local police
  • English Summer: Man is shot by police in what will probably end up being an unjustified shooting
Initial displays of anger:
  • Arab Spring: Mostly young citizens take to the street in defiance of authoritarian police directives. Some target government and police buildings, but demonstrations are mostly non-violent from the protesters side
  • English Summer: Mostly young citizens burn buildings and cars and steal electronics from local shops
 How the word got out:
  • Arab Spring: Through Twitter and Facebook until authorities disabled Internet service (Egypt, Bahrain). In Iran, Syria and Yemen social media was not used because of government censorship and shutdowns of networks
  • English Summer: Blackberry Messenging Service
Initial accomplishments:
  • Arab Spring: Toppling of brutal dictatorships (Egypt, Tunisia), strengthening of brutal dictatorships (Yemen, Bahrain), in excess of 20,000 citizens killed by brutal dictatorship fight-back (Libya, Syria)
  • English Summer: Stores burned after being emptied of merchandise 
The protesters:
  • Arab Spring: Mostly people in their twenties and thirties who are attempting to free themselves and their children from poverty, oppression and brutality
  • English Summer: Mostly people in their teens and twenties with free healthcare and free (by American standards) education who are struggling to show the police and rich people they can "do what they want" - which is apparently to burn down their own neighborhoods
Worldwide implications:
  • Arab Spring: Oil markets become unstable, millions of people are potentially freed from the vice of brutal military dictatorships, oppressed people give up what little they had to fight oppression - in some cases in the face of grave danger and short-term failure of their cause
  • English Summer: People worry about the Olympics and wonder where they went wrong
What people are fighting for:
  • Arab Spring: In most cases their very lives, and opportunity to live life free from the whims of madmen and dictators who have been propped up by Western powers for generations
  • English Summer: Flat-screen TVs, liquor, to relieve boredom, hatred of rich people
Tactics used by authorities:
  • Arab Spring: Jet fighters firing anti-aircraft munitions at protesters (Libya), long-term imprisonment, solitary confinement and torture (Bahrain), water cannons, mounted police bludgeoning protesters (Egypt), massive army engagement including tanks and air power that has left tens of thousands dead or wounded (Syria, Libya)
  • English Summer: Handwringing over use of plastic bullets and water cannon, stepped up police presence, scrambling to find social causes for the stupidity filling the streets. In fact, as a natural result of the unrest police and state oppression of the children who were feeling oppressed will be increased 
Who wins:
  • Arab Spring: Eventually, maybe even years from now, citizens of Arab nations will free themselves from dictatorship and will be able to enjoy self-determination
  • English Summer: No one.
     

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