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Saturday, February 5, 2011
Current Affairs ... History ...

The big national media machines (CBS, NY Times, Washington Post, NPR, etc.) and their staff seem quite excited about the recent uprisings in Egypt, giving them much air time and article space. This is quite similar to what happened a year ago when the masses took to the streets (unsuccessfully) in Iran. And there were more well-covered uprisings before that, including the various color-revolutions and velvet revolutions in eastern Europe in the 1990s and early 00s. Oh, and don’t forget Tienanmen Square in China back in 1989; again, much news coverage, but ultimately not a major change in how daily life was to be carried out.

I believe this fascination has something to do with the fact that these news companies are now managed by Baby Boomers who took their university educations in the late 1960’s, when uprising and revolution seemed in the air. Upset about Vietnam War conscription, they imagined the start of a new order, including the overthrow of the governmental and corporate powers in Washington and New York.

However, the unwashed masses outside the major campuses failed to join them, and the end of the draft in the early 70s soon quieted the scene. But we still have the music and culture of those youthful times; the lyrics of Crosby, Stills and Nash very well express the youthful idealism and naivete that swept the student body. The Doonesbury cartoons of Gary Trudeau also preserve some cultural ‘flies’ from the late sixties in the historical ‘amber’. So the liberal media gets a bit sentimental when the people jam the squares and shout truth to power, demanding the fall of oppressive regimes and power brokers.

Well, Honsi Mubarak certainly has stayed well past his time and has used perhaps more brutality than should be needed to keep Egypt from an unprogressive track (read, Islamic theocracy and anti-Israel). And revolution certainly can bring about good things – that’s how the USA got started. But revolutions often fail, or go far astray from the dreams of those who helped midwife them; St. Petersburg 1917 of course being a prime example, and the Bastille in 1789 too.

Angry protesters usually don’t see the big picture. In their passion, they don’t concern themselves with the nitty-gritty of social governance, such as how to collect garbage, provide clean water and electricity, foster an economy that supports the many, deal with threats from competing nations and tribes, keep crime under control, and allow the everyday family to get on with its life. The youthful American college protesters who occupied administration offices demanding change certainly didn’t have any ideas about just how hard it is to keep things working, never mind totally re-designing all facets of social, economic and political interaction. Their main concerns were free love, legal intoxicants, and freedom from potentially fatal military service obligations. Peace, pot, microdot. Make love not war.

OK, but who picks up the garbage and repairs the broken water mains, and keeps the average Joe and Jane (or Jose and Juana) from theft and assault and the many other dark-sides of human society? I am not saying that Honsi Mubarak is the best option for the Egyptian people given all of the world’s inherent cruelties (which seem so amplified in the Middle East). But I would suggest that we put what is reported by the press into context, regarding the wanna-be revolutionary attitudes that the major press managers exhibit. Don’t forget that Barack Obama was embraced by these same press magnates as a “revolution” in American politics, before the realities of governance overtook Mr. Obama. Today, some of the liberal press express disappointment that Obama is not the revolutionary that they had imagined. Do you want to fully trust to these people, that they are giving you an accurate picture of what the Egyptian uprisings are about and what is at stake?

◊   posted by Jim G @ 5:10 pm      

  1. Jim, Yes, the situation in Egypt reminds me too of the 1960s, etc., in the U.S.–but with a huge exception. In the U.S. when there have been protests against the government, there is what might be called an “infrastructure” of politics in place so that if one person is “pushed out” (e.g., Nixon) or any other kind of “change” is demanded by the people, there is a structure in place about exactly how “replacements” are made and change is effected.

    However, in Egypt there is no such structure in place even though Mubarak has appointed a vice-president and changed some cabinet members. But these are superficial changes he has implemented since the protests have started. There is really no established structure in place for how someone is to take over after Mubarak leaves.

    Such a situation leaves room for a really serious power vacuum, allowing for too many “unwanted” (?) groups to take over, such as Al Quaeda, the Taliban, etc., who are probably only waiting for the moment when they might grab power.

    While the young (and old) people of Egypt are certainly making their point, and it is a good one, what they are not looking at is the only too likelihood of a power vacuum that may bring to their country an even worse governmental situation than they have now.

    I think the U.S. obviously sees that possibility of a power vacuum occuring and is working to make sure that no such vacuum is allowed, that a structure is in place for a healthy government to take over when Mubarak goes. MCS

    Comment by Mary S. — February 6, 2011 @ 2:54 pm

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