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February 1st, 2011


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02:43 am - Musings on Egypt & Revolution
One of the better sources on the current situation in Egypt is here (it's updated regularly). I visited Egypt once, many years ago, when I was a young teen - it was the first place that I saw third-world poverty, and that made a big impression on me. The revolution in Tunisia was interesting, but distant - I knew literally nothing about Tunisia before it got in the news. However, I've periodically read about Egypt, and while Anwar Sadat seems to have been a reasonable leader, Hosni Mubarak has been a thug all the decades he's been in office. Less horrible than some authoritarian thugs, but very far from good.

I'm pleased that the US is keeping firmly neutral - no good could come from supporting the opposition except to discredit it in the eyes of many in the Middle East, and support Mubarak is foolish as well as wrong. At this point, it looks to me like Mubarak is doomed - if the populace is against you and the army is mostly ignoring your commands, your days as an autocrat are seriously numbered. My one hope is that he either scuttles out of the nation before things collapse or is taken into custody and given a trial that ends in imprisonment. I always distrust new governments that come into power over the bodies of their predecessors, and succession via murder is an impressively poor precedent for any nation - vile & deeply misguided quotes about the "tree of liberty" and "the blood of tyrants" notwithstanding.

The unrest in Egypt also makes me think about both the Middle East and the US. With trouble in Yemen & Syria, revolutions may spread, and while I doubt this will happen, what I'd most like to see is the fall of the House of Saud in Saudi Arabia - I'd love to see the fanatics who are ultimately behind most Muslim terrorism fall, but I also fear that if that looked like it might happened, the US might get involved, and that would be deeply wrong.

More importantly, this revolution makes me glad to live in a nation where revolutions don't happen and where they are ultimately unnecessary. For all of our problems, Egypt's problems have been far worse and imperfect as they may be, we have solutions they do not. I'm also reminded of that fact that revolution is far from a universally good thing - in the US the people most likely to try to start one are the bigots and would-be theocrats of the far right. Thankfully, I expect that in less than a decade the tea-baggers will be as forgotten as the so aptly named "Know Nothings" of the mid 19th century, that the tea-baggers so very closely resemble.
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Comments:


From:stardansr
Date:February 1st, 2011 12:05 pm (UTC)

Defining a revolution

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"More importantly, this revolution makes me glad to live in a nation where revolutions don't happen and where they are ultimately unnecessary."

Are you speaking of revolutions solely in the context of what Egypt is currently going through? I'm trying to get a clearer idea of where you were coming from with making that statement, the wording that you use bothers me a bit.


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From:heron61
Date:February 1st, 2011 08:57 pm (UTC)

Re: Defining a revolution

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In general. The US has many, many problems, but despite how terrible things got during the years Shrub was in power (and at various other times), we have other solutions that nations like Egypt do not.

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From:alobar
Date:February 1st, 2011 12:24 pm (UTC)
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> where they are ultimately unnecessary.

HAHAHAHAHAHA! You sure got you a sense of humor sometimes.

The US is far too big and nasty for other nations to want to try US leaders in international court. The ruing class ain't about to reform. Revolution is brewing. I do not want to see a bloody revolution. But I sure see it coming.
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From:heron61
Date:February 1st, 2011 08:50 pm (UTC)
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Revolution is brewing. I do not want to see a bloody revolution. But I sure see it coming.

If you think that any sort of leftist revolution is coming to the US, then from my PoV you are delusional. More than a few of the tea-baggers dream of revolution, but they're movement of the sort that doesn't last. Also, I rather doubt you like the idea of a tea-bagger revolution any more than I do.

Edit: Yes, things suck here, but far, far less than in a nation like Egypt. Also, what makes you think that a revolution in the US would actually improve anything? Unless things are exceedingly dire (such as in complete hell-holes like North Korea, where almost any option is an improvement), there's an excellent chance that any revolution will make things worse. Look at Iran - the Shah was a monster, and yet were the Iranian people any better off afterward he was tossed out? Perhaps in some ways, but definitely not in others.

Edited at 2011-02-01 09:12 pm (UTC)
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From:alobar
Date:February 1st, 2011 10:00 pm (UTC)
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I never said a revolution would make things better. The rank and file working class has been lulled into complacency here. We could see a Xian fundie state arise, or the tea baggers.

I posted a link to a video the other day in which a very frustrated woman on the gulf implied that she might shoot down planes spraying corexit if she had a gun.



It is only a matter of time before some gulf coast residents start shooting planes, BP officials, US government people who refuse to acknowledge that the seafood is not safe, and the police who try to stop them.

Again, I am not saying this is a good thing, but I see it coming.

Likewise with proposed cut backs to Social security. Had congress not stolen money from social security, the fund would be self-sustaining. When people in their old age are ripped off, no telling what they will do.
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From:heron61
Date:February 2nd, 2011 09:57 am (UTC)
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People talk - I'm 99.99% certain that this is all any of this will ever amount to. As I mentioned before, things are a hell of a lot worse in places that actually have revolutions (or get close to them) than things have been in the US in the last 75 years. That doesn't mean things are good in the US, but there are degrees of bad. Have you ever been to a third world nation, and especially one with an authoritarian government (which is admittedly most of them)? We're not even close. We'll likely get a few more assassination attempts, and if we're really unlucky, perhaps even a mass murder or two ala Oklahoma City, but we won't get anything close to revolution. I've heard people on the far radical fringe predicting revolution in the US for the last 30 years (I presume they were also predicting it before then, but I was a kid before that). It didn't happen in the 80s and it's not remotely close to happening now.

As for cuts to Social Security - that too is talk - Shrub (and several others before him) talked about it to and they all chickened out because they didn't want everyone over 60 showing up at the White House gates. I don't expect this current talk to be any different.

What I'd love to see is the elimination of all wealth cut offs for social security (ie change the system so that someone who makes $2 million/year would need to pay social security on each and every dime they made), but that's also unlikely to happen.
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From:kadath
Date:February 1st, 2011 03:28 pm (UTC)
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If "firmly neutral" means "$1.3 billion of military aid yearly to Mubarak's government," then sure.
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From:heron61
Date:February 1st, 2011 08:52 pm (UTC)
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There's no excuse for that, but he's not getting any sort of aid from the US now, and while far from sufficient, it's at least a step in the right direction. The US has helped out more than a few thugs in similar positions in the past, and I'm glad we're not now.
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From:alephnul
Date:February 2nd, 2011 08:14 am (UTC)
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Given that our $1.3 billion a year financing and training of the Egyptian army probably plays a significant part in why the Egyptian Army is sitting this one out (there has been steady communication between the Egyptian army and the US army and government throughout the revolution, and agreement between both groups that the Egyptian army should stay neutral), I'd say that aid is a big part of how it matters that the US is staying neutral. If the US had made clear that military aid would keep flowing freely even if the Egyptian Army had committed a massacre in Cairo, the chance that the Revolutionary Guard would have been out in the streets killing people would have gone way up.

Certainly, the US is responsible for Mubarak remaining in power for so long, but the US is gently nudging him out at the moment. Tonight Mubarak said he would stay on through the elections, and Obama said that the transition should be quick and should involve the opposition, which doesn't really match with Mubarak staying on as president for 9 more months.
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From:heron61
Date:February 2nd, 2011 09:17 am (UTC)
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Indeed. This is the first time that I can remember where I've seen the US actually try to make the despotion of a despotic ally anything other than either a complete horror or at best a grim farce. From at least my PoV, Obama is handling this well, and I find that both surprising and pleasing.
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From:alephnul
Date:February 2nd, 2011 09:47 am (UTC)
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Reagan and the overthrow of Marcos in the Philippines did pretty well: the US senate condemned the fraudulent elections and Reagan called them disturbing, and one of Marcos allies in the US senate told him at the end to give up and leave. (although looking that up on wikipedia, I find the most impressive bit in that is that Marcos ordered his troops not to fire on protestors:)
Fabian Ver: We have to immobilize the helicopters they've got. We have two fighter planes flying now to strike at any time, sir.
Ferdinand Marcos: My order is not to attack.
Ver: They are massing civilians near our troops and we cannot keep on withdrawing. You asked me to withdraw yesterday....
Marcos (interrupting): My order is to disperse [them] without shooting them.
Ver: We cannot withdraw all the time...
Marcos:' No, no, no! Hold on. You disperse the crowds without shooting them. You may use any other weapon...


Rare that it is the dictator who tells the army not to fire on the civilians rather than the army that tells the dictator that they won't fire on the civilians.
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From:krinndnz
Date:February 1st, 2011 04:22 pm (UTC)
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These are nice thoughts - but the US is far from neutral. We've spent the past decades of Mubarak's reign sending money and military hardware. He is substantially our creature. The current Egyptian thing, really, reminds me of the Iranian revolution. As global energy shortages become more acute, it becomes more expensive for the US to maintain its empire, with the predictable result that loosely held vassal states tend to get frisky.

As for revolution in the US, I'm wincing and chalking it up to an example of "those who make peaceful revolution impossible, make violent revolution inevitable."
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From:heron61
Date:February 1st, 2011 08:54 pm (UTC)
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As I mention above, at least we're not helping him now, and if he does get out, I strongly doubt we'll offer him asylum.
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From:krinndnz
Date:February 1st, 2011 09:52 pm (UTC)

teal deer

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That's not "neutral" by my lights, though. We were doing tremendously antisocial things, and we might stop doing them or do them at a lower intensity.

---

Also, regarding leftist revolutions - I think that a leftist revolution is not particularly likely, but for somewhat askew reasons. I think that the US is a dictatorship of capital, a plutocracy, and your classical 1776-American, 1789-French, or 1979-Iranian, revolution is good at killing or driving out highly visible thugs. Great for overthrowing dictatorships of an individual or an oligarchy, but rotten for building functional states afterwards or for addressing systemic problems (which is why there will be no feminist "revolution" of that kind: there's no single person or coterie at the top of the power structure). The genius of the US dictatorship is its ability to hide itself - and to ride out the easiest type of revolution. So there won't be a leftist "revolution" like the previous kinds, because that revolution needs something highly visible to fight against, and the dictatorship of capital, has done a good job of making itself translucent and setting up innumerable false targets - killing Bush, for example, would have accomplished pretty much diddly in terms of overthrowing the toxic power structure of the US, and the same goes for Obama. Assassinating US Presidents is a bad move for advancing your stated agenda.

What I think is likely to happen, and what you could call a "revolution" if you squinted a little, is that more and more people will notice that the economic arrangement that the dictatorship of capital offers, does not offer them what they want out of life, and will simply opt out. This is in early stages: it's not clear what people will replace that economic arrangement with, but it's becoming increasingly clear that it's a bad deal for anyone but the top 2%. This is, I hold, partially because of basic psychology-of-authority issues making the top 2% increasingly paranoid, vicious, and self-defeating, and partially because of energy-shortage issues such as John Michael Greer ably documents. Running an empire is unsustainable. So people will opt out - and Ayn-Rand-reading idiots are just as likely to opt out as leftists, despite the different paths they'll take in arriving at the conclusion that the current system offers them.

What frightens me is the thought that in attempting to preserve itself, the existing state may produce a revolution in the more violent sense. Collapse is not a quiet process for those inside the collapsing structure.

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