Friday, February 04, 2011

Nothing lasts...

Egypt, Tunisia, and possibly a number of other places long under the thumbs of old men and old interests are in the process of ending those regimes. What they are becoming is unknown at this time and there are great risks considering the context of their locale. But right now, there is room for hope and a generation seizing their own future.

We children of the Enlightment are not adept at recognising the perpetual dynamism of our lives and institutions. We look for endstates, perfect systems, perfect ideologies. Whether you are a diehard communist, ardent freemarketeer, theocrat, or aescetic, you have a vision of a perfect society that could exist if only everyone or everything were X, Y, or Z. So we create gods out of political parties and label ourselves Liberal, or CPC. Why anyone would want to align themselves so literally as to attain membership with an organisation bound by a rigid set of outlooks is beyond me and speaks to desiring an perfect conclusion. We recognise the process of ecological destruction that our system of production and mode of living produces, but then we invoke a term - sustainability - that implies there is static means of preserving the current system to befound. The perfect body, the perfect job, the perfect house, the perfect family, this orientation to the static, the stationary, the unchanging, is the Enlightenment utopia. Somewhat paradoxically, this also assumes that society should grow, but that this growth should fit with static parameters. We should expect an unchanging increase in microcomputer speeds, annual new cars, TVs, and other technological gadgetry, as well as market wealth, complexity, and production. Static, linear, progression ad infinitum. We don't recognise that things change. Rapidly. It isn't part of the historical and philisophical infrastructure of our society.

Dictators always have an expiry date. The exact time and context of their demise is unknown but their terms always come to an end.  Their rule is predicated on maintaining a complex balance of repressive power, fear, and mythology. They require secure channels of wealth, arms, and the consent of dazzled and terrified people, and supporters who either benefit in wealth and stature or believe the propaganda. Mubarak required the United States and a brutal police apparatus to maintain his position in spite of the will of especially the younger generation of Egyptians. This complex network of supports appears at first strong but the reality is that these regimes are extremely vulnerable for that complex support network is tense and grows inceasingly so as time moves on and the world outside and within the state changes.

At some point a shot might ring out, a foreign power cuts off support, a challenger rises, a heart attack, or the people will simply and collectively say, "enough!" and pour into the streets in the hundreds of thousands. Then the old order is gone and people set about creating the new, which in turn shall also have its time.

In that sense, what is happening now in the Arab world is broadly predictable. The nature of how it happens is not.

The big question isn't how it happened, although numerous academics and pundits will parse that to bits trying to find the secret ultimate recipe answer and some orientalist will come up with a theory of Arab revolutions, write a book, and get a sweet job advising occidental presidents and councils.

No, the question coming from Egypt is what next? There is opportunity for a remarkable peace or catastrophic war in the immediate uncertainty of the post-revolution, tense in the extreme because Egypt's fate won't only be decided by the Egyptians.


double nickel said...

You can bet the Saudi Royals are shitting their pants.

Cheryl said...

You have applied the evidence of an evolving, self-organizing universe beautifully to the political sphers, Boris.

liberal supporter said...

Meanwhile, Steve works on the anschluss today. I don't think the deal has changed. Recall Obama's slip a couple of years ago, which was spun as a "gaffe"? It seems we only get to be 7 states...

Beijing York said...

Nice post, Boris.

What happened in Tunisia and happening in Egypt seems totally unanticipated. I for one, love that.

I also love the courage and incredible organization of what we are seeing in the public square in Egypt. They are staying calm and resolute despite the odds. But the element of surprise is certainly on their side.

This is the most hopeful although nervousness inducing event in my lifetime.

Edstock said...

Libya and Syria:
Nuts and Flakes
for Political Scientists.

hettygreen said...

So now the US envoy to Egypt is saying that Mubarak should stay on to 'facilitate' the transition 'process.' Didn't Obama's press secretary just say (on Friday) he has to go now? What gives? After reading what Aljazeera has to say today it looks like the military is making some subtle moves to isolate and contain the protesters. Once 'regular' life is allowed to resume in the rest of the city it's probably all over for these poor and noble folks.