Revolution: It’s a big word with a powerful meaning.
Throughout history there have been plenty of revolutions, many that have changed the face of the world. October, French, American, Industrial. The list goes on. Well, there’s another one happening right now and it ranks up there as one of the big ones. And it seems for the bulk of the US population, the revolution and the realization of what it portends seems to be sneaking up like a bad guy with a bazooka creeping in the house while we’re gorging on Big Mac’s and watching reruns of Desperate Housewives.
It seems that our (US/Western) interest is – once again - sponsored only by the price of oil at the pump. If Libya was not the fifth largest provider of Oil in the world methinks that many would think Libya is a just a part of the female anatomy. Thankfully, some in the US can pull themselves away from American Idol and realize that there is a change a-coming.
Regardless of our limited attention spans and blasé indifference here in the United States of Anyhoo, the Middle East is undergoing a huge change. A dramatic political and social upheaval of their world order that will markedly impact ours.
The Middle East is in the throes of their own incredible, sweeping revolution A grass-roots rebellion that is not contained to one country, one race or one culture. This revolution is encompassing entire continents and its coming soon to a gas station near you…
First Tunisia, then Egypt and now Libya, hundreds of thousands – if not millions – of people are jamming the streets and protesting the tyrannical and corrupt rule of their “elected” governments. Even the Saudi’s are sleeping restless and have resorted to a fifty billion dollar handout to its populace to keep them from the streets. Typically in the Middle East, these kinds of protests go hand in hand with car bombs, public stoning’s, kidnappings and all the earmarks of terrorism not rebellion, but this revolution is something different altogether.
Peace be with you now leave: This revolution has – up until Libya – been non violent (at least on the side of the protesters). It’s incredibly viral, respects no borders and is fueled in no small part by an under employed, unsettled but well-connected (connected as in internet not connected as in political) youth and a frustrated lower-middle class. It’s an awesome display of people power. Millions of people massing together to take back control of their countries and their future, to wrest power from tyrants and put it back in the hands of the people. It’s the modern-day people’s revolution that is wholly and truly by the people for the people…and it’s pacifist. As in Martin Luthor King and Ghandi kind of pacifist.
Rebel with a Blog: Protesters from Tripoli to Benghazi are using their voices, their feet, their phones, their blogs, their tweets and their passion, to mix one of the most powerful social molotov’s the world has ever seen.
This revolution is being fed by instant communication through mobile phones and social networks. Censorship has been rendered moot. Sure TV Station’s are shut down but YouTube keeps on blasting the images of repression and struggle to the rest of the world. Rallies are announced on Facebook. Atrocities are tweeted.
Out with the Old: The old guard has struggled desperately to contain the spread of information while the old-school propaganda trick of disseminating misinformation has backfired and spluttered. It’s like teaching your grandfather to use an iPhone app to check the weather. It should be easy but when you have not grown up with technology, with instant communication, with entire libraries of information available with a fingertip tap, then this education process is painful and begrudging. Old father will use the iPhone but he won’t get it, he won’t truly understand what it means and he will use it with trepidation and reservation. He’ll use it because he must. Because if he want’s to survive, he must get the hang of this newfangled technology. That means that he will use it but he won’t embrace it. At least not like the Grandkids are doing.
That’s whats happening in the Middle East. The old dogs – who for years had prattled about one God, vestal virgins, and sacrifice for the motherland on one hand and used brutality, bribery and bombs to rule their oil inspired oligarchy on the other – were prepared for rebels with rifles. They were not prepared for peaceful, popular protest by Facebook or for every human rights outrage they committed to be youtubed to the world. The old adage about taking a knife to a gunfight took on a new twist. Do you take a gun to a knife fight when billions of people are watching? You win the fight but lose the war. (Actually the knife in this analogy is more like a Blackbery but the point is made hopefully)
This conundrum has left the old boys with an ugly choice. Kill your own people publicly and try to suppress any rebellion…or leave town like a schoolyard bully who got spanked by the nerd.
De-Friending your Dictator. In Egypt and Tunisia the choice was the latter.
In Libya the rambling despotic megalomaniac – not to mention smartphone challenged – Muammar al Gaddafi is sticking to his hired guns. His black gold funded hordes of African mercenaries scrambling to fill the ranks of his ever dwindling military. These non-Libyan trigger happy ‘tough guys’ have no compunction about machine gunning foreign children to earn a paycheck.
Bairhan, Yemen, Iraq, Yemen, Iraq, Jordan, all are right now feeling the weight of hundreds of thousands of feet stomping their protest through their nations capitals.
And it’s going to get worse – or better depending where in the world you are.
What’s next: Here’s a sneak peek at how the rest of 2011 may play out for the Middle East.
- Libya will oust Gaddafi and he will either be killed or seek refuge in Venezuela or Zimbabwe. Perhaps even Saudi Arabia. It won’t matter because if he is not killed, he will eventually be brought up on charges by the world court and then returned to Libya for trial…where he will be summarily tried, convicted and executed in the space of a week. Arab justice. They don’t mess around.
- The Iranian regime will fall. After a brief period of celebration a civil war will break out as the Sunni’s and the Shiites go at it. Look for the US to get involved when the Oil prices edge over $5 a gallon.
- The regime in Yemen will fall. They will attempt to go to the polls and usher in a faux democracy but there will be violence at the tolling booths and martial order will be enacted which will kick off a much more violent revolution. It will be a north vs south civil war.
- Jordan will follow Egypt and Tunisia. New governments. New Leaders.
- The Government in Algeria will survive…for a while. They are too canny to follow the lead of the other dead duck Arab leaders and will give enough rope to quell a major uprising. But, it will not be enough. Giving too little, taking too long to deliver, the revolution will begin anew. Then Algeria will be forced to hold UN enforced elections and the Government will fall.
The Anti-Christ? Perhaps the most disconcerting thing about this Arab revolution is that there is no one set leader. It’s very much led by the people. But that is actually the soft blanket that covers the armor. There must always be leadership and with the Middle East, leadership is inexorably dialed into religion. Religion is in turn, so often the blanket of the soul that humanity turns to for comfort and warmth.
If a leader that embodies the Arab soul rises to prominence, he will be the spiritual, if not also the cultural leader of a fragmented but primarily Muslim world. The Arab equivalent to the Christin Pope.
Is there such a man? Absolutely. He has not appeared yet, but his day in the sun will soon be shining and it will be a long day indeed. He will have such prominence in the hearts, minds and souls of the Gen X to millennial Arab world that his influence will be incredible. The old dogs in our neck of the woods will cling to their Sunday suits and wail about the Anti-Christ (as many scholars have predicted that he will come from the Middle East, a hangover from the days of the Crusades) and they are not that wrong, because he sure won’t be a christian.
But, he won’t be a Devil either. He’ll be a well schooled, well spoken, youngish Arab who will connect to the young Arabs through iPhone and Parables and he will eventually hold sway over the entire Arab world. And, by virtue of his influence, he will be able to dictate much that happens with the West, because of course, we are still dependent on their oil.
The interesting thing about this Ivy league Arab, other than that he won’t grow facial hair (a big tut-tut for the old school Arabs who see him as a child unless he gets the beginnings of a Goatee) is that he will not advocate violence of any kind. He’ll be like an Arabian Ghandi who went to Yale and tweets on life from his bathroom. He will be the spiritual leader of the Arab youth, a Muslim but not a fanatic. The Politico’s in the west will publicly love him but privately loathe him. The Old Dogs had their status quo. They knew the enemy. They knew how to combat them. How to negotiate. Not with this young puppy though.
Amazingly the Clerics and the Ayatollah’s of the Arab world will be forced - eventually – to accept and then begrudgingly endorse him. The voice of the new Arabia will prove to be that much stronger than the croaky squawks of the old birds who will find their mandates of religious rule by martyr’s and car-bombs don’t hold quite the holy water that they used to.
And he’ll elevate woman too. They will be afforded rights and powers that they had never dreamed possible. Behind every man of influence is a woman who influences him and there is no place in the new Middle East for old men without Gmail. Especially when the women of Arabia are tapping and tweeting too.
Every revolution needs a leader and while this revolution may have started without him mark my words, he’s on his way to join the party, with his iPhone in one hand and the Qur’an in the other…