Our straight talking Lancashire lass takes a sideways look at the daily news.
The times, they are a'changing...
Grab your Bob Dylan albums folks, revolution is in the air. But with so many different uprisings across North Africa and the Middle East it’s really hard to know what is going on. Believe me, you really need a PhD to interpret these seismic events.
But we should at least try to understand what’s going on, because the outcome of the Middle East Revolutions will affect us all one way or another.
It started when a young man in Tunisia set himself on fire after police refused to let him sell fruit and vegetables. The fierce burning wave of anger and outrage at this man’s death prompted the people to overthrow their corrupt government. But even then, no one could have anticipated the spark of revolution that he ignited across Northern Africa and the Middle East.
We think of Tunisia as a hot holiday destination with good beaches and great resorts, not as a country crippled by dictatorship. But as the Tunisian government fell, the people of Egypt were inspired to overthrow President Mubarak, their corrupt leader.
And like a string of dominos, autocratic governments across the region are facing massive uprisings - mainly from dispossessed youth who, thanks to the Internet and new media, know more about the outside world than previous generations. And they are angry. Angry enough to take on their power-hungry leaders and the military and change the political landscape of an entire global region.
From Algeria and Morocco, to Jordon and Yemen people are saying ‘no more’ to poverty, oppression and hopelessness. They want democracy, the right to choose their leaders without fear of being beaten or imprisoned for backing the wrong horse. They want jobs, they want fair wages, decent living conditions and political freedom.
It’s not too much to ask but they face the fight of their lives. Things are getting nasty – in Libya the military have been ordered to bomb anti-government protesters whilst their despotic leader Colonel Gaddafi flees the country. Iranian authorities are slamming their iron fists hard into dissidents and have been hurling members of the opposition in prison. Can you imagine President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran stepping down for a democratic election without a fight? No way. He’s a very nasty bastard.
For decades the people of many of these countries have lived with poverty and oppression whilst their leaders hoarded the lion’s share of the wealth – trillions gleaned mostly from oil and other natural resources.
But this isn’t the only issue. We also have labyrinthine political situations, complex regional wars, the rise of fundamentalist Islam, and deeply rooted divisions based on religion, class, political leanings, geography and gender.
Let’s not also forget that the West, in particular America, demands stability in these regions because of the ongoing Israeli-Palestine conflict, the very real threat of Iran, and access to oil and gas.
Western leaders and oil companies like BP are quaking in their boots – democracy works for us, but we rely heavily on compliant dictators in the Middle East to prop up our way of life. This is hypocrisy at it’s worst.
I’m simplifying everything here, but to iron out what is going on in the right context is like trying to untangle an ever-rotating vat of boiling spaghetti. And even those with in-depth of knowledge of the situation, no one knows the outcomes of the Middle East Revolutions because revolutions by their very nature are unpredictable.
But it matters to us, not just economically – most of our oil and gas comes from the Middle East – but because at risk of sounding like a total hippy we need to show solidarity for our fellow human beings.
Simply put, facilitating democracy in these regions is the right thing to do. The powers that be really must, for once, put people before profit. Although I doubt that this will happen, there is too much at stake.
Make no bones about it these events are as significant and massive as the fall of the Soviet Union and the crumbling of the Berlin Wall. I just sincerely hope everything works out peacefully in the end.