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July 6, 2013


Revolution and other forms of civil commotion designed for change of political and economic systems often come from those of the Left or the Right who have been radicalized by the perceived excesses of the ruling class of the moment. Examples in history abound; Dictators displace democracies. Democracies displace dictators. Armies displace civilian rule. Civilian rule displaces military rule. New rulers who promised democratic rule become dictators; and occasionally a dictator does in fact embrace the concepts of democratic rule. The point is this (according to some old adages): What you see is not what you get. Promises are cheap; it’s performance that counts. Pretty is as pretty does etc.

Revolution and other forms of civil commotion designed for change of political and economic systems rarely if ever come from the Center. By definition, the Center can absorb the excesses of either or both the Left and Right and weather the storm, hoping for change. The Center’s protests, if any, are mild and never result in, for instance, nation-wide strikes, wanton destruction of property or other forms of violence and destruction. Those are characteristically left to protests of the Left and Right.

This essay is designed to suggest that the anti-government marches and tirades we are seeing around the world these days are largely grounded in the Center. Yes, there is some violence and destruction of private and public property involved, but these may be the result of some from the Right and/or Left who have infiltrated the Center’s ranks, hotheads or youth caught up in righteous thinking, or psychopaths who need an excuse to practice their psychoses. Centers are typically non-violent.

As usual, violence invites suppression, as we are now seeing in Egypt, and thus invites the very situation the people in the streets were there to correct, to wit: suppression of democracy. In isolated context, it matters little if suppression of democracy comes from a Morsi backed by a religious brotherhood or an army general backed with guns – suppression is suppression – and the Egyptian people who yearn for democracy are the losers. Promises of new elections within the year are just that – promises – and  there is no guarantee that the next election (whenever held) will yield a different result, one  that will make the Center happy. Assuming the Center succeeds in the next election, what is to keep Morsi and his religious brotherhood from going to the streets and having a redo of military takeover after such an election, with yet another election promised down the road to correct whatever injustice the most recent election is thought to have brought about? In short, when does this end? When do “weekend constitutions” end and a constitution that all can respect truly become the organic law of the land?

I have a different view of what is causing Egyptian riots than the press daily pumps out. I think that some of the problem may be radical versus moderate religious belief, but I do not think that is either the real or the main issue. I think it is economic, age-centered and the result of ease of communication among Egyptians who now have the resources of social media and the internet available. The rapidly increasing number of youth who are unemployed is a time bomb in itself, set for a possible explosion whatever the form of government of the day. I think they would be in the streets in any event – hunger and spare time among restless youth comprise a dangerous combination in dictatorships AND democracies, and with the ease of communication of complaints, I fear for the future of Egyptian youth in a military setting. I hope for an end to all forms of violence there.

My fears involve more than the current difficulties in Egypt. As the most heavily populated Arab nation in the world, I worry that other Arab states (and Islamic but not Arab states) will look to Egypt as the example to be followed in dealing with their own internal difficulties. Beyond the mess there and the possibility that new elections will not solve whatever difficulties they  have, we in the larger world have to be concerned with problems far beyond Egypt and the fragility of its peace pact with Israel, for instance.

We have to worry about atom-armed Pakistan and our terror-fighting drone program played out over its territory which results in death and injury to Pakistani non-terrorists. We have to worry about the current bloodbath in Syria and the way major powers are lining up to support one side or the other in an old Cold War rebirth played out through Third World proxies. We have to worry about what is (and isn’t) happening in Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Mali, Lebanon and the increasing bloodbaths in Iraq, not to mention just what is or isn’t going on in the nuclear factories in Iran.

In the non-Islamic world, we have to worry about disastrous policies of austerity in Europe and this country, Israeli expansion in building new homes on land not their own, Wall Street greed on the road to total takeover of this country, Brazilian marches by millions of people protesting a waste of public resources while the poor go hungry, Snowden types and spying generally, trade policies gone awry, and, among other such worries, a tea party-fueled call for policies hearkening back to the robber baron era of circa 1880 in this country, policies which, if unchecked by the Republican party, could lead to the end of the Republican party as we know it in its descent back to Whigdom, from whose ashes it arose in 1854.

While the Egyptian crisis is the most troubling to me at the moment, the partial list above set forth will give the reader the correct impression that even should the crisis in Egypt be miraculously ended, there are plenty of other crises on the table or in the making (see environmental and market monopoly outrages) to keep one awake nights. We seem as a species to prefer confrontation over cooperation.

The world is not coming apart – yet – but we need to work on seeing that it doesn’t come apart down the road. Perhaps we should put aside greed and cunning in favor of good will and honesty and see how that might work out in keeping things together. What do we have to lose? Greed and cunning as exemplified by out of control spying and the institutionalization of diplomatic lying isn’t faring well.

It’s not as though such institutionalism is something new. I remember well (and this was before the feminine movement) a lecture in which my World Politics professor asked our class to define a diplomat. After all our answers failed, he said: “A diplomat is an honest man, sent abroad to lie for his country.” This is the same professor (Dr. Ernest K. Linton) who refused to call homo sapiens homo sapiens. He insisted at all times and places that they be called “homo saps.” The truth hurts, even then, in 1948.

We can and should do better, in Cairo, Baghdad, Tehran, Washington, Berlin and everywhere else. Let’s think change from the Center, and for real change, invite both the Left and the Right into our group. Silly suggestion? Naïve? Why not? Nothing else has worked; let’s give it a try. With unanimous solidarity of Right, Left and Center, advocates of change would then have few naysayers. Result? Change happens; change fashioned by the people while politicians who are only interested in power and money games sit on the sidelines. Let’s get serious, both here and everywhere. In solidarity there is strength. GERALD  E


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