Friday, March 18, 2011

Anatomy of Public Revolt

By Manfried H. Starhemberg
Ironically, the two great revolutions, the American and the French, had to do with taxes. It America it was tea, in France salt. The tea tax set off a chain of events that changed the political landscape of the world, the French salt tax led to the end of the French royalty. We now live in a new kind of public uprising in the Middle East and it is interesting to examine the root causes of this surge of unrest:
Tunesia was first, then Egypt and now there is a bloody war in Lybia. If Ghadaffi wins it, this will bode ill for all the nations that are currently trying to escape oppressive regimes because it will act as a model for other despots who are in the process of learning that one can indeed stay in power by bombing the demonstrators and the hell with the international courts of criminal justice. Just produce more oil and everyone will eventually shut up again.
The biggest underlying problems are the economy, the absence of justice in repressive and corrupt regimes, the segregation of populations along racial and religious lines and the nepotism of the ruling class which will steal a nations wealth and share it among a clique of family, friends and "advistors",leaving the population too starved to do anything about it.
From the Lybian oil to the blood diamonds of Zimbabwe, billions of dollars are stolen monthly by the "leaders" of their respective countries. Last week a few billion dollars of Ghadaffi's funds were frozen, yet he still manages to pay his henchmen and elite guards enough to fight the poor and ill armed peasants whose only aim is to better their lives and create a democratic society. The problem in Lybia is that there is a "council" but not one charismatic leader of the opposition who could appeal to the international community for help. No Mahatma Ghandi in Benghazi, no single person a Mr. Obama could call and confer with. Psychologists call it the "Shepard Syndrome"; every revolution needs a leader to be successful in the long run. Often, the shepards like Lenin, Peron, Mussolini, Mao or Hitler, turn out to be worse than their predecesors in the long run, but in today's enlightened and informed society, the chance of that happening again is greatly lessened through the broad and immediate dissemination of news through the internet and social networking sites.
There are three catalysts that form the base of any uprising since the beginning of time. The first one is the economy. People without jobs or people with jobs that are underpaid to such a degree that every day becomes a mental and physical nightmare with no relief in sight will eventually either make the afflicted people give up or rise up. This will lead either to mass hysteria which, if not channeled by a leadership capable of harnessing the energy, can and often does fail. Or it leads to a stoic docility as evidenced to some degree in Zimbabwe today, when people simply run out of energy to offer resistance. It was stoic docility that afforded the German Reich to round up and kill millions. There simply was no fight left and no leadership to oppose the oppressors.
Next to the economic situation comes the visual impact of the empowered class. People with nothing to eat are daily inundated by the vision of the ruling classes' Rolls Royces, Mercedes, Audi, BMW and Land Rover cars which are normally preceded by military vehicles which "sweep" the streets of rubble. Add to that the tacit approval by western poweres of people like Ghadaffi or until the recent past, Mubarek of Egypt, it is hard to see the populace get the energy to revolt because in their minds they will not only have to fight their own oppressors while not being assured of assistance from foreign powers who have always been lavish in praise of democracy but have to the most part been reluctant to give more than lame lip service to those in actual and immediate need.
And then we have the press; Wolf Blitzer and company pretty much had Ghadaffi at the international court in the Hague a week ago but now that Ghadaffi is nuking his own people and seems to be winning, the "revenge for Lockerbie" stories are becoming dimmer and dimmer. After all, America consumes 20 % of all the oil produced in the world and "we don't want to be too hasty condemning the guy that sells us the stuff". The national press in the afflicted countries is tightly controlled and journalists have been murdered for trying to speak out about abuse of power, theft of public funds and human rights violations. Sadly, the only real news people can get is from the internet whch the despots have quickly learned how to shut down. Ditto with cellphones. In the old USSR, the people who fought communism listened to the "Voice of America" in clandestine attics and then mimeographed the news for distribution among their ranks. Same idea but now it is much easier to just cut people off electronically and jam radio transmissions other than the fearless leader's diatribes.
The Canadian government seems to have disassociated itself from most conflicts of late. There are no decisive statements from Ottawa, no assessments of the future balance of power in the affected regions, no contingency plans of assistance, even for human rights issues, no intervention on behalf of people who are being beaten back into the 16th century. Even the churches seem to have become eerily quiet. For all this international quest for rights, freedoms, equality and hope for the future to work, the world community must speak out loudly and get rid of the parasites that control millions of lifes from not only Lybia but from North Korea to China.
Ghadaffi and all the other criminal "leaders" out there must be happy about the devastating events in Japan because it, at least temporarily, has eclypsed their own troubles and affords them the opportunity to quietly kill the citizens who stay in the way of their greed for power and their offshore bank accounts...
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