Sunday, January 23, 2011

Tunisia, the Middle East and Democracy. Can the genie be set free?

  The outbreak of 'democracy' in Tunisia last week was pretty interesting.

  Interesting because civil unrest is rare in Arab countries due to the risk of getting gunned down by cops/soldiers with AKs. Civil unrest leading to the ouster of a dictator is pretty much unheard of. There are all kinds of sleazy dictators in the Arab world who like to rake in cash while strangling human rights and civil liberties. The West is pretty cool with this so long as it doesn't interfere with business. Let's face it, it's cheaper to buy off an Arab dictator these days than deal with a bunch of pesky democratically elected officials who might actually press for a fair deal for the wider population. Shit like that might cost a fortune.

  Egyptian dictator Mubarak harvests a billion a year from the US on the idea that he can keep a lid on that subversive notion known as 'democracy'. Because if democracy were to break out in Egypt right now you'd end up with some batshit insane elected majority running shit and maybe doubling fees to float a container ship through Suez. Democracy is risky business in your vassal states. Just look what happened the last time there was a popular outbreak of majority opinion in the Middle East. That was in 1979 when the Iranians booted out the Shah and his US backers, replacing him with a top down theocracy of right wing crazy religious nuts who think stoning to death is a fitting punishment for married women who fuck the pizza delivery guy.


   A nice idea, makes the masses feel all warm and fuzzy, but never something you want to toy with.

   That's why this type of popular revolt and outbreak of "democracy" in Tunisia has been met with a kind of tepid approval in the West. The US invaded Iraq and air dropped a few hundred billion dollars in the desert to bring "democracy" to Saddam's huddled masses. You'd think the US would be all over events in Tunisia like flies on shit right? Truth is, the sleazy powers that be in the US and Europe are a little wary about the whole thing. It's akin to that classic scene in Fantasia where Mickey Mouse brings a broom to life to do the chore of filling a well with water. The broom overdoes its job and causes a flood. When Mickey chops the broom into pieces, each splinter becomes a new broom that floods the room even more. These democracy protests in the Middle East are a little like that for Western interests. Shit like this can get out of control fast, spawning whole new governments we might not be able to buy off. Hell, some guy just torched himself in Saudi Arabia yesterday. If those Wahhabi House of Saud loons who run shit over there by way of US petro dollars ever get overthrown, world oil supply could end up in the hands of a whole new bunch of people who could cause all kinds of trouble by interrupting the flow of spice by not doing what they're told.

Sadly, some things have always been worth burning to death for.

   Democracy can be a little risky like that.

   It can lead to all kinds of problems for the corporate oligarchy in the US and Europe. For instance, when Israel pulled out of Gaza in 2006, the Palestinians exercised their democracy and duly elected Hamas and not the secular Fatah like they were supposed to. That resulted in the withdrawal of financial support from the US and EU and a blockade by Israel, basically saying, democracy is wonderful except when you get the process 'wrong' and elect the guys we don't like. 

   Democracy is always liable to end up with unpredictable results.

   When you give the average fucktard on the street a say in how countries get run, bad shit happens for rich people. That's pretty much why there are no real democracies left on the planet anymore. The last time true democracy showed up it was in Athens in 461 BC and good old Pericles was initiating a golden age. US style democracy is all about providing the plebs with the illusion that their vote matters whilst the corporate oligarchy feeds them the information on who to vote for whilst also controlling the candidate list. Pretty fucking genius really. When it costs a billion dollars to run for President, those supplying that billion own that President's ass. He's their man bought and paid for. Poor old Pericles today wouldn't stand a chance.

   Still, shit might be about to get interesting in the Middle East.

   History says there's always the unexpected in war and human affairs. Once an idea takes hold and becomes viral it's hard to suppress. That's why you've got protests going on right now in many Arab countries where protests are 'illegal'. You've gotta love the idea that protesting is illegal. It's like saying the storming of the Bastille in 1789 was illegal. Of course it was. When you're at the top of the food chain everything is illegal for those lower down on the pyramid when they start rocking the boat. I wonder if Louis XVI tried to funnel the French revolution into designated 'free speech zones' a few miles from the epicenter of the Estates-General.


   It's a funny idea. But a little too risky to be really put into practice. To quote E.B. White, "Democracy is the recurrent suspicion that more than half of the people are right more than half of the time." But the truth is, half of the people are below average IQ just by taking the test. That means that if you are in any way intelligent you are in an automatic minority. It's too risky to give everyone a voice. Much easier to run interference and tell them what to think. All you need is to own the means by which people get their information, TV, radio, newspapers. That's pretty easy these days. Flood the airwaves with bullshit and you've bread and circused the mob into groupthink.

   Still, I love the idea that shit could go wrong for the powers that be.

   This whole idea of setting yourself on fire in a public place is an idea whose time seems to have come in the Arab world. You know shit is bad when you want to rage against the machine in such a way that you put your life on the table. What greater statement can you make?

    Right now, the rest of the Arab world is watching events in Tunisia closely to see what they do with their new found freedom. Tunisia is the home of the ancient city of Carthage. That's some hardcore military history right there. The Punic Wars take us back to a time in human history when wiping out the enemy, killing all their men and selling all the women and children into slavery before destroying Carthage stone by stone was a certain kind of justice.

   But that's war. Sadly, the only motive force in human history.

   If they can get their shit together, the Tunisians could make a wider point that could reverberate across the Arab world. It'd be a cool underdog story that Hollywood could make into a movie in a few years starring Brad Pitt as the guy who torched himself when they took his fruit stand away. But then again, I'm pretty fucking cynical when it comes to desert civilizations. I'm one of those contrarians who prefers Smith's Ozymandias to Shelleys.

 In Egypt's sandy silence, all alone,
Stands a gigantic Leg, which far off throws
The only shadow that the Desert knows:
"I am great OZYMANDIAS," saith the stone,
"The King of Kings; this mighty City shows
"The wonders of my hand." The City's gone,
Nought but the Leg remaining to disclose
The site of this forgotten Babylon.
We wonder, and some Hunter may express
Wonder like ours, when thro' the wilderness
Where London stood, holding the Wolf in chace,
He meets some fragments huge, and stops to guess
What powerful but unrecorded race
Once dwelt in that annihilated place


  1. I got goosepimples.

    This blog is awesome.

  2. Yeah, your blog is the only one I bother to check independently of where reddit takes me.

  3. As for the "whole new bunch you'll never know if they are for sale" I'll recommend you John Perkins' Confessions of an Economic Hitman. The base line is that it's just a matter of how much you need to buy the new guys out. Even the righteous reformer democrats, they just end up being even cheaper than the classic robber El Presidente general.

    Of course the trick requires boatloads of money, and the real risk right now is that neither the US nor the EU is in shape to make such a number of mayor payments in so short a time. But if it's about fruit baskets full of banknotes I guess the Chinese would be glad of taking care.

    About the feasibility of real democracy in the Arab world it of course hangs on the "issue". It's a balance between how close to being a bad terrorist supporting Islamist country you get and how much worth the real state is.

    Case in point Gaza, not worth a shit as a place in an economic map, besides the Jews-in-DC lobbying map, that is, but very high on the issue map. Other case in point: Turkey, right now in the middle of altering all that has made Turkey the good muslim country, -they even fought in Korea for Gawd's sake-, and also one of the few countries in the Mediterranean with a growing economy. So it's all "moderate" islamists here and "exemplary" melt of tradition and innovation there. Which tells you that probably the guys running the show are the same as ever, and they had been Islamist all time around, even when they were in the trenches in Kunuri.

    As for France, the real massa in Tunis, it might even be good a bit of good old Democracy if that keeps thousands of Tunisian youths away from the marginal banlieue of Paris. They could live with an (moderated) Islamist Republic of Tunis considering that the main export of Tunis is tourism and kitsch leather produce. Even with a extremist one if that means a good excuse to close the borders to it's nationals.

  4. Wait until shit heads south in the west!

    I for one eagerly await the second American revolution.

    If you are not willing to fight for freedom, you are by definition a slave.

  5. Promise to never change the background image please

  6. You don't get rid of an economy whose primary sectors of growth have been carefully pruned around corruption. It doesn't happen at the ballot box.

    It happens at the point of a knife. It happens because people are quickly accustomed not to knowingly becoming part of a corrupted system, but because the corrupted system affords them the luxury of living a deluded life and believing they need to defend even their most outrageous delusional assumptions with force.

    You can't convince a schizophrenic person the voices aren't real when they have lived for decades knowing and trusting every moment of every day through their senses.

    So far, Al Jazeera reports the formation of a "committee of wise men", whose goal is expressly to stop the gaping "power vacuum" that would lead to collapse or dictatorship. This committee represents the elite beneficiaries of the previous regime by any possible measure. Even more sad is the offer of aid to the emerging elite by Egyptian, Algerian, and Yemeni heads of state as their own dissidents are making the headlines in response to the unrest in Tunis.

  7. How long will the biggest fat cat of them all, Saudi Arabia, last once the dominoes start to fall?

    How much gold can a Learjet hold?

  8. PS would love to read an article on teutonic knights!

  9. I am so glad I discovered this blog. The amount of awesome content you put out is amazing.

  10. Fantastic blog, good sir. Found you when doing some Google searching on the Mexican drug "war" and I've been hooked ever since.

    My compliments.

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    Katni Yellow Sandstone