Monday, January 31, 2011
The Emperor has no clothes: peoples revolutions v special interests
First in Europe and now in North Africa, people want to be in a country where they have the right to decide their own course of action, the right to decide which orientation they will take in internal politics and what is good for them, without having to go through the filter of the best interest of the great Imperial powers like Russia, Britain, France, Germany, China and the USA, or their clients like Israel. Sadly, South Africa still dictates terms that are beneficial to itself over the interests of the ordinary Zimbabwean or Ivoreans, much the same way Great Britain and others used to protect their special interests. White men doing the same thing was wrong, and now black men doing this is still wrong, however you wrap it in rhetoric. While some individual strongmen will continue to get away with murder literally, the age of plantation politics is coming to an end with the arrival in Africa of the flu that has kept Europe sporadically free for the last 200 years.
Cote D'ivoire was, until the meddling of some, getting rid of it's disgraced former leader, Robert Mugabe still effectively runs the country he has owned since nearly independence, despite people power. His regime and the regimes of countless other tin pot little African dictators, depend on a tolerance of other leaders equally afraid of the consequences of losing power. In the UK, Canada, Germany, leaders retire and write memoires, in Africa they are arrested or flee with the money. It's not a natural state of affairs that once a leader gets a grip on power that he or she must fear being rumbled for robbing the treasury and murdering the populace. Since the end of Communist rule in Central and Eastern Europe, most regimes have had free and fair multi party elections with changes in government following on peacefully and without incident. Is it the considered opinion of some African leaders and other western ones that Africans are not ready or capable of such a peaceful transition? South Sudan is an example of the extraordinary peaceful revolution and creation of a nation , some have waited for since 1955. Had the special interests of the world held sway, the result announced yesterday of 99.5% yes, could never have happened. The fact the result was so emphatic is proof of the desire of the people to move towards an independent state so long denied them by a string of Governments in Cairo, Washington and London as well as regionally in Africa.
In my lifetime I have seen the imposition of right wing dictatorships on nations by the USA and Communist ones by China and Russia in the name of the great struggle for liberation of the global interests of those empires. What the locals wanted or thought, was of little importance, what happened to the locals , especially in places where mineral or other desired wealth was important to outside interests, mattered even less. A case in point was Kuwait, where oil and more oil were the deciding factor that drove the allies to come to the defence of the poor down trodden Kuwaiti people.but where similar fates were meted out to Kurds, Rwandans, Palestinians and Hungarians or non Serbian Yugoslavs, it took ages if ever to react to the plight of these people.
In the last 40 years Soviets invaded Hungary, Czechoslovakia, caused a puppet regime to bring deadly martial law into Poland, created excuses to steal land from Georgia and other nations. And yet when the same people throw off the yoke of one kind of slavery or another, the west trips over itself to claim the moral high ground and credit for regime change. Since 1989 through to today, the influence of the US State department and other such players in the affairs of the world's liberated peoples has been nil to near tragicomic farce. There is a reason they are so ineffectual and gormless when it comes to these situations. Having discouraged dissent and diversity in the first place, they are unaware of and not trusted by even the most well meaning of opposition movements. First fearing social-democratic secularism then the Islamists, the west and now even Russia play the game of preferring the devil you know over the one you don't.
The people of Egypt, given the chance to elect a new Parliament with multiple parties and ideologies will likely not elect a government that Mr Obama, Mr Putin or Mr Cameron will like, but it will be the government they want and that is representative of their desires and values. Hamas in the Gaza strip is an example of a radical party that if given the chance to rule, was going to do a perfectly adequate job, but like it's far more moderate predecessor, was attacked and destroyed from above and below by Israel and other international special interests. How are Palestinians, or any other people expected to grow into multi party democracy if they are not trusted by the paternalistic great powers to have their say? It is the height of hypocrisy to watch Washington, London and other capitals sit back and do nothing , then prop up the dictator, then call for his removal. What we are seeing is an attempt to impose a solution on Egypt that will pacify the people but preserve the status quo for several countries more interested in their own security than the freedom and democracy of Egyptians. ( or Algerians, or Yemenis, or Sudanese, or Saudis etc...). The citizens of those countries must be allowed to set the pace of reforms and the types of reforms they want in their own lands. As they are exposed to other ideas, the creation of hybrid political ideas and systems come into existence that represent the desires of those people. Sometimes simply taking a model that works in the UK or America is just not going to work. Afghanistan and several regions in West Africa have centuries old systems that had worked well, but were swept aside overnight and consequently could not be expected to succeed.
Democracy is in and of itself not a solution to all things. In Uganda gays are repressed by the state and local churches, in West Africa federalism has failed to stop resource based, religiously tinged conflicts from breaking out. In the Unites States, free universal national health care is still decades removed from what is accepted as normal in most European conservative circles, let alone the left. In Europe there is a rise of the extreme right in parliamentary elections. These examples point to the need of politicians to come to terms with the problems in a way that most can accept, or the cycle of stagnation, violence and mistrust will continue. In Europe and the rest of the West, people, that is citizens, are trusted to sort out the mess, often of their own creation, but in other places we seem to think a paternalistic heavy hand is required should the result not quite suite our needs or personal political philosophies.
As a Pole living in the West, I appreciate the liberty I have had to influence my local, regional and national Government. I have treasured the ability to work and speak freely and I have wanted the same for others, even when it meant that maybe the Foreign Office or the American State Department or the Kremlin might not be best pleased. In parts of the world where the west has had to negotiate on level terms with new powers like India, Brazil and Indonesia, we have seen the spectacular failure on the part of the industrialized powers to take into account the desire of those countries peoples to climb up to at least as good a standard of living as ours BEFORE they start to sacrifice their monetary, ecological and agricultural policies for us. While it's important to bring to the table our level of concern and conviction regarding these issues, we cannot expect these new counterparts to respond in kind until such time as they themselves are not asked to make greater sacrifices than ourselves. This policy of having others suffer for our crimes is nothing new and should be replaced with the same basic philosophy as the Marshal plan had. Mainly to rebuild those parts of the world to their functioning selves before we can expect those parts of the world to play by the same rules as us.
China is inevitably lurching towards some kind of mixed economy socialist democracy and market system most Europeans would recognize, India, will likely be more chaotic, producing a string of reformist governments that will drag most of India kicking and screaming into the 20th century, while Mumbia gets on with inventing the 21st. Canadian PM Pierre Elliot Trudeau years ago worked for a North South dialogue that aimed at building the bridges between the emerging economies and the old established ones, while reforms were made along with the necessary linking of those emerging economies to the solutions of very real problems like global warming, food shortages, debt, and educational/health standards. Since his departure from public life, the peace dividend has come and gone, western economic self interest continues and the powers that were on the outside looking in are still there but even stronger now.
How long will it take to embrace China as a full partner on monetary policy? How will it take for the Asia Pacific rim and South American countries to finally crash the party so long reserved for the exclusive club that most European nations don't even belong to yet? Poland is right, Europe has to sit as a member at the G20, China and India need to be let in. But how can we expect this to happen if even today we see the fish out of water inept indecision of western powers trying to work a solution in Egypt that will at the end of the day have little to do with the protests of ordinary Egyptians except that they were the ones who forced the unwilling hands of Washington, their clients and other countries with interests in how Egypt is run for their protection. It is clear to anybody with eyes that the Army is waiting to crown an acceptable compromise that will please the middle classes, the middle east peace process, western interests and Israeli security. I doubt seriously this solution will come anywhere near satisfying the root problems of the Egyptian unrest and will only delay the inevitable final crumbling of the current regime.
Abject poverty and deprivation breeds despair and fanaticism, as do prolonged dictatorships. If Egypt or "The Mother of the World" is as important to the region as the analysts and the regional leaders and peoples say it is, let the revolution come, let the free and fair reforms and elections happen NOW. If we wait, there is no knowing what the well educated youth bubble of middle class aspiring Arab men and women will do next. Letting the mainstream elements of Egypt take over now, will usher in a new age similar to the optimism and good will that followed the decade of dominoes falling in Central and Eastern Europe. As we speak, Khartoum, home of possibly the worst of the rogue nations in Africa is under pressure, Yemen, Algeria and Jordan as well. What happens in the next few days in Cairo will determine the course of African and Middle Eastern politics for decades to come. If the west wants to be able to say they did something, they should create the pressure, clearly and without reservation, that leads to genuine people approved reform. Then and only then will the west and America in particular not be so mistrusted and hated. This is the time to cut the fanatics off from the new recruits by showing they are wrong when they say it's just another Congress of Vienna, Paris accord or Yalta stitch up.
The people of Belarus, Iran and Zimbabwe watch with eager anticipation to see if they can dream of unfettered revolution or if they are doomed to spill even more blood before they are as free as the average Pole or Brit. I can't help but feel the weight of history and share the excitement of Egypt as I watch the fall of a hated regime. Much like our struggle, it will hinge on small events and the intervention or lack of intervention of outsiders. It took us 10 years and in the end it was a vote of non confidence on the Sejm(parliament) that drove the last nail in the coffin. Egyptians might be able to keep it down to a week. Good luck, the world is watching and we are cheering you on. A word the Egyptian Army, make up your mind, move on the Government or your continued neutrality will be taken as cowardice in the face of indecision.The Army must embrace the Lotus revolution before they become as mistrusted as the regime and the police.
Since I wrote the above, the Army has released a statement stating it would not fire on the people and that they considered the demands of the protesters "legitimate". One looks forward to the next 24 hours and the million man march planned for Cairo.
The Emperor has no clothes, the sooner the special interests realize this, the sooner the world will be a better place to live in.