The flame was lit by an impoverished vendor who had had enough of being humiliated by abusive goons of the state. When he set himself on fire to protest this continued humilation, he started a conflagration that brought down the brutal and corrupt dictatorship of Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali that had preyed upon the people for more than twenty years. The protest started in the rural areas of central Tunisia and spread like wildfire to all parts of the country, especially the capital Tunis. Now it threatens the dictatorship in Egypt, Algeria and Yemen, with protesters blowing the lid that had been clamped down on them for decades. There is little organised opposiyion in these countriews and so the people have taken to the streets and that is what will make them difficult to head off.
There is a tide in the affairs of men,
Which, taken at the flood,leads to fortune,
Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows
and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat,
And we must take the current when it serves
Or lose our ventures. (Brutus, in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar Act 4, sc 3).
Power is a force that ebbs and flows, so go with the flow.
Resentment, anger, repression, unemployment, rising food prices and poverty are at the heart of the dissent/discontent. Thousands ( estimated at 20,000) protested in Cairo and other cities, which took observers by surprise, because usually only a few hundred turn out. You can expect the governments to respond in the only way they know, with violence ( there are no identifiable leaders to arrest) and curfew, but it will not work, because the protesters have seen what has happened in Tunisia and they are encouraged by this and also because they suspect that the 82 year-0ld Mubarak is grooming his son Gamal to take over, and they see an opening. So far three have been killed...martyrs for the people. Web activists (Twitter and Facebook) led the calls yesterday and this shows that their call can reach a broad audience, who can react quickly and in large numbers.
The same resentment, poverty, repression, unemployment and anger exist in Algeria. It is just a matter of time before it takes to the streets. Yemen is already in turmoil and in Lebanon the new Hizbollah-backed Prime Minister, Najib Mikati, has greatly angered his Sunni brethren (the constitution power-sharing system calls for the prime minister to be Sunni), who accuse him of being a tool of Hizbollah and Syria.
With the possible exception of Jordan and Morocco, the Arab world is ruled by like-minded autocrats, whose hold on power and wealth are dependent on a machinery of coercion, repression and greed. " Violence is the mid-wife of every old society pregnant with a new one"( Marx). Force is the only means of change, for those in power will not relinquish that power by any other means. Social media...Twitter, Facebook, cell phones etc., these are the 21st century weapons for change.
There is no going back. The seeds of dissent have been sown and the people have sensed a powerful feeling. It is intoxicating and this new feeling is an aphrodisiac and power is the ultimate aphrodisiac and they have tasted of it and they want to hang on to it. Egypt is a very literate society....77% literacy. There are many capable of leadership and all that is needed is for the opportunity
Mubarak is finished but like a dying beast, he will writhe and lash out but he will quickly find that the military upon which his power rest, has taken its marching orders from the USA (the Egyptian military Chief of Staff was in the USA, meeting with his US counterpart, when the uprising started and has now returned home). The military. which is held in high esteem, since it overthrew King Farouk in 1952, under the leadership of Nasser, will not use its firepower against the Egyptian people. However if the Muslim Brotherhood and other elements try to foment widespread violence, the military will be used against them. Already trouble-makers are trying to hijack the movement....prisons have been emptied and neighborhood watches have been set up by residents to protect their homes.
The next few days will be crucial and will determine what direction is taken and by whom.
In the previous blog, I dealt with the economic Leviathan that China has become. It was the wisdom and foresight of Deng, that is responsible for this . He realised that China needed to grow economically, if it wanted to take care of its people. He favored cooperation not competition with the USA. A synbiotic relationship, based on the fact that peace and stability were the key ingredients for China's growth, and that is what the Chinese governments who succeeded him, have done. China has benefitted greatly.
When Obama became president, he signalled that the importance of strategic ties with Chuina. However, there were some glitches....meeting with the Dalai Lama and selling arms to Taiwan, (predictable but which led to Obama's humiliation at Copenhagen climate-change conference and refusal to agree to senior military to military ties), but common sense has prevailed and thus the visit of Hu.
The People's Liberation Army has always been a force in China. Under Mao and up to Deng, senior party leaders had military credentials and the military had accepted their subordinate role, but the present leaders do not have such credentials, and thus the PLA has been given a bigger role and a larger budget and they have been flexing their muscles eg..the recent test of the new stealth fighter.
China may be an economic Leviathan but its military pales in comparison with that of the USA. The 2010 USA's military expenditures was $729 billion compared to China's $75 billion; 71(clearly superior) submarines to 65; 11 aircraft carriers to 0; and 9,400 nuclear warheads to 240. China has more active military personnels than the USA.....2.3 million to 1.6 million ( that is with 3.5 times the population of the USA) ( Time Magizine/ BBC).
Deng's plan of tacit alliance with the USA, has held so far, but a change of leadership will take place in 2012. The PLA's role,( given its ideological and strategic mind-set i.e.seeing the USA as a sworn enemy), will be vital. Does the Communist Party still control the military and can they be kept in check?
We are in for some "interesting times". Both sides have to tread carefully and nurture the "symbiotic" relationship.....matters of trade, currency and mutual respect (human rights, Tibet, Taiwan etc.), must niot be allowed to aggravate. Lines of communications must be opened and utilised fully.
Mao's China "is rising" and Deng "to get rich is good"....nationalism and pragmatism have combined under a "command economy"to produce tentacles stretching from Ecuador and Peru to United Staes and Canada to Britain to France to Germany to South Africa, Nigeria and the Congo to Iran, Kazakistan, Afghanistan and to India, to Russia to Japan to Australia , buying government bonds eg. USA, equities in banks and utilities eg. Britain, investing in constuction and engineering in Iran and the Mid-East, purchasing stakes in metals, energy, power and transport.......will spend $4 billion to operate Filipino power grid for 25 years, $ 5.5 billion to purchase 20% of the Standard Bank of South Africa, $2.2 billionin a joint venture in India [producing iron pellets and steel.
China has over $2.4 trillion in foreign reserves and is willing and able to spend to purcahse goodwill (bought $150 million of Costa Rican bonds, after which, Costa Rica cut ties with Taiwan), bought Portugeese and Spanish bonds to help with their economic stimulus, to get a foothold and win influence and assets, especially energy supplies ( in Iran, Congo, Angola, Nigeria, Kazakistan). It has also invested in France, spending $2.8 billion to buy into Total...French oil and gas company, $16 billion on banking and utilities (British Petroleum) in Britain, $43 billion invested with Alcoa in Rio Tinto for aluminum .......oil, gas, coal, iron, steel, aluminum and other metals, but bonds and equities are where most is spent, and the USA is its largest and safest target. So far China through its investment arm SAFE...State Administration for Foreign Exchange, ( serving the same purpose and with the same determination and goal to build the economy as the Japanese did with MITI....Ministry of International Trade and Investment), flushed with funds and free to spend as it sees fit (unlike its democratic counterparts, who are constrained by rules and regulations), is spreading its largesse far and wide, to achieve its goals of acquiring assets, growing goodwill, gaining political and economic foothold and spreading its influence. The only thing that can stop it is internal instability.....there over 100 million internal migrants, restive and moving from place to place looking for their "piece of the pie". As demands grow for more and more goods and services, the government has to deliver or else, they will be swept away like twigs. As former Chinese president Jiang , noted in answer to a question from an American reporter, on his visit to the USA, "IT IS MORE IMPORTANT TO FEED THE PEOPLE, THAN TO GIVE THEM THE RIGHT TO VOTE".
There is a spectre walking the land and its name is ''Hate", the end result of the toxic vitriol spewing from the mouths of those who would destroy our democracy, by limitng our choices, our rights, our reasonable debates and our freedoms. They deal in fear, ignorance and hate, with lies, half-truths and prejudices , in language "death panels", " Do not Retreat, Reload", shouting "you lie" and "you are not American", continuing to question the President's birth, and in a calculated manner, encourage violence against those with whom they disagree....putting a rifle's crosshair target over 20 congressional districts. Well, we are reaping the crop of hatred that was sown.
Freedom speech does not mean that we have the right to incite and inflame, that we are not responsible for the consequences of our words. We must be held accountable ( there will be those who will argue that the constitution protects free speech, but even as you cannot slander, so you cannot encourage and incite mayhem). Sarah Palin, and those on Talk Radio" and Glen Beck and those on Fox, who have used inflammatory language for monetary and political and ratings gains, must be held accountable and should be investigated and prosecuted to the full extent of the law, if it can be established that there is a link between what they have said and done, throughh words, images and/or actions. This is not a witch hunt, it is essential to bring "some sanity" back, so we can have responsible debate, or else we risk our liberty and security.....even as you cannot shout "Fire", in a crowded theatre, you cannot preach "Hate" and post "hate-filled images" to the many unstable "gun-toters".
Six people died, one a lovely 9 years old, whose promise will never be fulfilled. What a terrible loss.
China will continue to gobble up the world's resources to feed its expanding appetite and this will cause more damage to the environment as the Chinese government is only concerned about its own "interests"and why not? The West's growth was achieved by rapine and devastation of the environment and as Deng said "To be rich is glorious"
Pakistan is on the verge of collapse and nothing can save it. There is no leader capable of uniting the "ambitions" of the Punjab and the Sind egomaniacs. The world will be severely affected by the instability and the forces of evil and mayhem. operating under the name of religion will wreak havoc. This is the price the West have to pay for supporting a venal and corrupt administration.
Sierra Leone will suffer another bloody and vicious ethnic war. This will expose the paralysis of Africa's incompetent and self-serving leaders. Most hold power under questionable circumstance, whether it be Nigeria or Zimbabwe. The Sudan will eruprt in gory bloodshed, mainly because the Muslim/Arab North will not give up its claims to the Christian/African South's resources, especially with China playing a SELF-SERVING ROLE. Africa's largest country has always attracted the rapacious, ever since the British" Chinese Gordon" times.
India's stability is threatened by home-grown crooks.....the politicians who feed off the trough, whetrher it be federal ministers or regional "leaders". There has been a pattern of corruption, which until now, India has been able to weather, but this time it has struck at the heart of the government. Prime Minister Singh has to act speedily and resolutely to stop this virus, which threatens his government. This is especially necessary, given the projected instability in Pakistan. Mischief is in the air and as Arsistotle noted, "in order to deflect attention from problems at home, create external dangers".
The economic travilas in Europe will be compounded by the collapse of Berlusconi and Italy's economic facade will be revealed. Germany will be unable to stem the additional demands and this will put grave strains on the Union. especially given the weak governments in France and especiall Britain.
The Republican rabble in the House will give Obama a great boost. The "just say no Republicans", pressured by the "out of ideas Tea Party" will try to stall actions by Obama. They will be shown to be the " phonies without any ideas except objections to anything Obama", and resort to "empty noises" eg. repeal of the health care law, ( they cannot because the Senate will not go along and Obama has veto power, and by now Americans are beginning to see the real benefits) and appeals to the atavistic and ignorant, through Talk Radio and Fox. They will be exposed for the charlatans they are, especiall Issa of Califirnia.......his "threat of investigating officials for corruption, ( he is more suited to the Byzantine politics of his ancestral Lebanon).
. Locally, we have jiust seen Harper's most recent re-arranging the "deck chairs". The recent Cabinet inclusion has shown the dearth of "talent" of the Ref-Con.....Kent, not Clark, as his latest poster-child on the environment. He is supposed to be a communicator, just because he used to read the news...Wow, such skills!!