Posts Tagged ‘tunisia’
by stuartbramhall in The Wars in the Middle East, Things That Aren't What They Seem
In my opinion, a brilliant analysis by Tony Cartalucci at Land Destroyer Report is a must-read: chiefly because it identifies the corporate interests behind creating, funding and arming the Free Syrian Army, the Syrian National Council and other rebel groups that have taken up arms against the Assad government. We already know their primary agenda in the Middle East – to isolate Iran, China and Russia with the goal of consolidating US dominance over dwindling oil resources.
In Cartalucci’s words: “[T]he West has become an expert at creating false paradigms, creating debates and conflicts that obfuscate the true nature of any given problem – obfuscating that they themselves are generally at he root of it.”
He makes his point by citing the example of the CIA-funded National Endowment for Democracy (one of several CIA-funded “non-profit” foundations), one which Ahmed Bensaada and others have identified as playing a pivotal role in training the activists who helped launch the “Arab Spring” revolutions in the Middle East and North Africa.
Cartalucci illustrates the role corporations play in the NED with a collage of the corporate logos represented on the NED board of directors:
His article includes a link to a fascinating timeline he created in an earlier blog Save Syria, which starts with a 1991 pronouncement by Undersecretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz about the need to “clean up” old Soviet client regimes (Syria, Iran and Iraq). It outlines plans for Syrian regime change dating back to 2002, as well as the training program the State Department began in 2008 to train 5,000 activists from Tunisia, Egypt, Syria and Lebanon.
Cartlucci asserts that by identifying the true root of the Syrian conflict – namely multinational corporations – we can avoid falling for the phony solutions western governments offer us. He believes the only solution, ultimately, lies in disempowering corporations and replacing them with revitalized local institutions.
Read more here: Land Destroyer Report
by stuartbramhall in Challenging the Corporate Media
Still under house arrest, Wikileaks founder Julian Assange discusses the experience of solitary confinement with the new president of Tunisia. President Marzouki offers him asylum. Fascinating interview on RT:
by stuartbramhall in Attacks on the Working Class, End of Capitalism, Global south
Former Wall Street analyst (and fellow expatriate) Max Keiser predicts that American workers are unlikely to manifest the same revolutionary fervor as their comrades in Tunisia, Egypt, Syria, Yemen and Bahrain until they experience comparable difficulties paying for food. See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i-B2V2l_6QE (link kindly provided by a reader). Egyptians pay 40% of their income for food, Americans only 12%. Nevertheless with the impending double dip recession, continuing wage and benefit cuts, and financial markets massively speculating in food derivatives (see http://stuartbramhall.aegauthorblogs.com/2011/07/03/speculating-with-our-food/), Keiser believes, as I do, that this day isn’t far off.
As a doctor and health food advocate, I was already well aware that the federal government massively subsidizes cheap fast food and junk food (http://stuartbramhall.aegauthorblogs.com/2010/12/13/ending-the-obesity-epidemic/). America’s agricultural subsidies kill literally millions of Americans every year, by creating an epidemic of obesity and related medical conditions, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke. Yet until Keiser raised the issue, I never recognized the importance of these subsidies in suppressing popular unrest. It seems the main purpose of US agricultural subsidies isn’t to help farmers or even the massive food conglomerates that run factory farms. They are intended is to control the single most important factor driving third world resistance movements – namely the cost of food.
I was also interested in Keiser’s view that no subsidy program has the ability to control rising food costs, so long Obama refuses to regulate the investment banks that are driving up food prices by speculating in the food commodities market.
A World Bank Perspective
World Bank President Robert Zoellick describes the link between the cost of food and regime change in an oped he wrote for the Financial Times in February 2011 (only paid subscribers can read the FT article, but it’s summarized at http://iipdigital.usembassy.gov/st/english/article/2011/02/20110216153135elrem0.863125.html#axzz1TFa72yUl). The oped points to the widespread food riots that occurred in 2008 due to a sudden spike in food prices – as well as triggering regime change in Haiti. Yet according to Zoellick, the 2011 food crisis is even worse – with rising food costs forcing 44 million people into poverty between June 2010 and January 2011.
The February 27 Independent http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/africa/the-price-of-food-is-at-the-heart-of-this-wave-of-revolutions-2226896.html and March 2 Energy Bulletin http://www.energybulletin.net/stories/2011-03-02/energy-food-revolution-inextricable-link offer a somewhat less ideological analysis than the World Bank president. The Energy Bulletin links the collapse of the Soviet Union to skyrocketing food prices. They point to a sudden decline in oil prices (with oil exports being the Soviet’s primary source of foreign revenue) in the late 1980s that left the Soviets unable to buy adequate wheat on world markets.
Most commentators seem to agree that the magic number is 40% – that civil unrest becomes inevitable once food prices consume more than 40% of workers’ incomes.
I think the number that ultimately triggers food riots in the US might be lower. During the Great Depression, Americans were forced to spend 35% of their income on food (http://www.enotes.com/1930-lifestyles-social-trends-american-decades/making-do-family-life-depression). Although we don’t read about them in mainstream history books, there were extremely bloody battles in Washington over Hoover’s refusal to pay the bonus that had been promised World War I veterans. Barbara Kingsolver writes about some of them in her 2009 historical novel The Lacuna.
Otherwise I totally agree with Keiser’s and Zoellick’s food theory of revolution, especially in countries like the US where psychological oppression is a bigger problem than political oppression. Psychological oppression is less much less prevalent in countries like Greece, France and Spain (and apparently Britain), where strong working class consciousness enables workers to instantly identify when the government and corporate elite are screwing them. In these countries, workers are far more willing to take to the streets over less life threatening issues – for example, high youth unemployment, pension cuts, an increase in the retirement age, unpopular wars and evidence of corruption in the criminal justice system.
To be continued.
by stuartbramhall in End of Capitalism
(Generation Z consists of young people born after 1990)
Much has been made of the role of youth in sparking the so-called “Arab Spring” revolutions in the Middle East and North Africa. The historical significance of the mass insurrections in Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain and Syria is yet to be determined – given their failure to bring about genuine political reform. Even Egypt, which received the most media attention, remains under the firm control of the Egyptian military, which has banned strikes and continues to shoot, arrest and torture protestors.
Nevertheless, the willingness of Arab citizens to engage in public protest against some of the most oppressive regimes in the world is a new and significant phenomenon. It highlights the distinction between political and psychological oppression. Psychological repression is a state of wholesale resignation. A population makes no attempt to resist, owing to their belief they will be utterly crushed. Although the Arab populations in the Middle East and North Africa remain politically oppressed, they have made giant strides in overcoming their psychological oppression.
The Role of Youth in Sparking Revolutions
Youth are nearly always the engine behind any movement to throw off psychological oppression. Marxist psychiatrist Wilhelm Reich relates this to the absence of “biological rigidity” that sets in as people age. Older people have an overwhelming drive for “business as usual,” which Austrian-born child psychologist Bruno Bettelheim credits for the failure of European Jews to resist the Nazi campaign to enslave and exterminate them (see http://stuartbramhall.aegauthorblogs.com/2011/04/27/pacifism-as-pathology-book-review/). Based on my own clinical experience, I would pin it more on the illusion of immortality in children and adolescents – their inability to grasp the finality of death. It’s an inability to fully comprehend this concept that leads to adolescents’ reckless disregard for personal safety in their driving, gang banging and other risk taking activities.
The population demographics of the Arab world have special significance in this respect. At present, North Africa and Egypt currently have the highest proportion of young people in the world. Sixty-one percent of the Egyptian population is under 25 (in the US 35% are under 25). This relates mainly to Egypt’s low life expectancy (70.3 years, in contrast to 78.7 years in the US) and low numbers in the upper age brackets. Moreover the high rate of unemployment among Egyptians under 25 (25% overall and 30% among collage grads) is credited for an extremely high level of anger and frustration among Egyptian young people.
Lessons from History: Soweto and the Intifada
I have always been fascinated by two other major political movements initiated by teenagers – the 1976 Soweto uprising in South Africa and the first Palestinian Intifada in 1987. Both were influenced by a circumstances I consider even more important than either demographics or high youth unemployment. The factor characterizing both the Soweto uprising and the first Intifada is the widespread breakdown of parental authority, which is quite common during periods of social upheaval. This, in turn, leads to precocious development of personal autonomy in teenagers. The link between this breakdown of parental authority and youth rebellion is a major theme of my young adult novel The Battle for Tomorrow: a Fable .
I believe both the Soweto uprising and the first Intifada have important implications for political change in the US, given present trends in American families. Over the past two decades, declining earning power has forced most parents (men and women) to work extremely long hours, leaving them have little time or energy for their kids. In many families teenagers are essentially raising themselves – which has very important implications for generation Z activism.
To be continued, with a look at the Soweto uprising and the first Intifada.