Thursday, February 3, 2011

Stability in the Middle East

The fertile crescent has been a seat of political unrest ever since the beginning of what we recognize as history. Archeological records and early prototypes of "social media", in stone, attest to that pretty clearly. Of course one of the great sticking points of modern society is an absolute commitment to a singular monolithic and monotheistic idea of what is real and of what is right. The broad divergence in the particulars of one person's reality versus another's creates a funny cognitive dissonance, particularly between people who live substantially different realities while maintaining open communication channels, like conservatives versus liberals in the US. It is interesting that the validity of these differing points of view is often contested on a wrestling-ring where reason and principle take a decided back-seat to the weight of media in favor of one point or another.
The confusing thing about that conservative versus liberal divide today is that we have people like Hillary Clinton, rabidly defending the improprieties that enable an empire to extract capital from the conquered, such as when she "condemned" WikiLeaks on charges of endangerment that she knew at the time to be false, and the very same administration, which has supported a mockery of representative government in Egypt for decades, now calling for an orderly transition and preaching moderation, as if they had credibility or authority there. They have no such thing with the people there. What they have is money, and lots of it. Egypt has been an American base of operations second to few in the area for a long time. Today, Egypt is a huge recipient of US foreign aid, at $1.99B a year. This money, of course, is largely earmarked to be spent on US goods (mostly killing machines), and has been used to maintain strategic security for fuel-supplies, protect American industrialist investments, and keep opposition leaders incarcerated, among other things.
There is revolution in the air in the Middle East, which seems about ready to cast off the imperial yoke of the US that nurtured and trained and funded the Taliban, Saddam Hussein's regime, and the many cross-border civilian massacres that Israel glibly carries out in the region, like Sabra and Shatilla, and Hebron, to name but a few. It started with a popular uprising in Tunisia, which is of little strategic value to our modern Roman Empire, but in a few short weeks the seeds of a people intent on recovering some sense of self-determination have spread like Roundup-ready seed in the mid-west. I can't possibly pretend to know enough about the middle-east to understand the political machinations in play, so take this for what it is - the opinion of someone who reads the news once in a while and remembers.
The whole American discourse about moderation is especially infuriating because this is coming from the country that has the highest percentage of its population, and the most people, incarcerated in the world. A country where exit-polls disagree violently with election results, yet the vote-tallying is done by machines that have legal protections from accountability, and where there are many laws making someone accused get treated as guilty unless they can prove their innocence by presenting evidence they are legally barred from accessing. In other words, the US is pretty far from democracy today, but they sort of have a trademark on the word, and on the awesome power of repetition through media. So what is 'preaching moderation' really getting at?
Moderation, in this context, seems to be simply a code word for stability in a place where justice and democracy are hard to come by. Mind you, there already is a brand of democracy in the area that people living in the US do not enjoy. Can you imagine what your life-expectancy would be if you went with a bunch of your friends and barricaded Times Square? Brave people have taken to the streets, blood has been shed, and there is a lot of tension in the air about how much more blood will flow during these demonstrations, but I have the distinct impression that people in Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan, Yemen, or Chiapas for that matter, protesting thus in the streets, have a noticeably longer life-expectancy there than counterparts might have in the US. In September of 2010 Peter Cunliffe-Jones published an interesting analysis of the difference between Nigeria and Indonesia. Starting out equally troubled in the scope of his analysis, things have taken a substantially more democratic turn in Indonesia. His conclusion, loosely paraphrased, is that citizens of Indonesia took to the streets relentlessly until political change was necessary to appease them, while in Nigeria dissent mostly equalled death.
Could it be that the presence of totalitarian American puppets is what has been keeping the Middle East so troubled and unstable for the past 30 years? Imagine a middle-east with no American army-bases or re-labeled missiles, bombs, satellites, F-16s, or monthly cheques doing the bidding of US investment through these proxies. For me, it is a troublesome concept because I have precious few heroes, and Jimmy Carter, one of them, would have been instrumental in architecting modern instability & repression in the region. But such is the history of the South. I might not be so opinionated about it, except that I have much direct experience. I went to private high-school in the deep south, and learned there that as a Chilean I was as much a foreigner as "immingrants" from the mid-west. More recently, I worked for Al Gore, and got to see first-hand the staggering difference between the democratic principles theoretically espoused by his political philosophy and the completely cavalier disrespect for ethics, legality, and workers' rights in a company he heads.
The number of people engaged in full-time prognostication about what will happen in the coming months in the Middle-East is staggering, but one thing is for sure. People who need some semblance of democracy have not seen a friend in the US for decades, and rightly so. It is very possible that an ouster of US influence would help the region's governments become more representative of people than of corporations, as has been slowly but surely happening in Latin America despite the best efforts of the United Fruit Company, and its love-child, the CIA.

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