2011/01/29 – The Limits of Control

First it was Tunisia, then Algeria, Yemen, Jordan and now Egypt. The calls are coming from people fed up with the authoritarian strongmen who have held power for decades, while the people struggle to survive within diminishment and poverty. The internet and social networking are among the major stories in this geopolitical conflagration that threatens to erupt, and the end of the story is nowhere near over. The Egyptian government decided to kill the internet, so that there was no ISP The complaints are the same: rampant unemployment for people under 30 years old, political corruption, a life-destroying bureaucracy and no chance for a future. The Middle East,, one can say, is currently undergoing a transformation that nobody knows where it will lead. There are two distinct possibilities that is in store for Egypt: one is the state will use all the repressive force it can muster, and the other which will lead to anarchy. I don’t really know which scenario would be worse. The protesters are calling for Mubarak’s removal. Mubarak responded with a crackdown, rubber bullets, water cannons, the arrest of 800 people in two days, and when all that failed to quell the violence and destruction of property, Mubarak fired the government and vowed to name a new one.

The entire story of the rebellion happening across the Middle East is that the American-backed strongmen like Mubarak and Tunisia’s Ben Ali were left untroubled by dissent for decades. It took the burnt body of a fruit vendor to set in motion the complex chain of events that are engulfing an area of the world with massive geopolitical importance to the United States, as Egypt is a key Middle Eastern ally.

And the mess is, unsurprisingly, all about money. Or the lack of money, as the Egyptian people would say. What is happening in the Middle East exposes the real limits of control that governments have. Whether the revolt will remove Mubarak remains to be seen, but what has transpired is that people aren’t going to so accepting of the unacceptable from their governments. But one does not have to wait to lose hope before drawing a line into the sand. An equal money system would work in countries like Egypt, but not as long as there are elites within and without the country that insist on profiting on the backs of the poor. but the control these countries tried to exert on its populace is crumbling, and that’s a good thing.


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