The lost revolution : why the social uprising in the Arab countries changes the world for the better – but not the Arab one
The world’s reactions to the public unrest and overthrow in the Arab countries were cautious, even fearsome. Especially Europe had difficulties how to deal with this much surprising as disconcerting situation. After some hesitation it decided to, at least officially, finally embrace what it has always promoted without really advancing it: democracy and the right of the people to decide for themselves.
Those values are indeed literally constitutional for Europe and the European Union. The heritage of the French Revolution of 1789, and the consequent promotion of its progress especially concerning the legal system, binds Europe together. It is, among other factors, the foundation of the wealth the peoples of Europe enjoy today.
In the light of this history, one might be tempted to cheer up for the upcoming years of development in the Arab world and especially North Africa. Indeed, the year of 2011 will enter in the collective memory of the concerned countries as a moment of hope, sometimes joy, but above all the belief that one can take matters into its own hands. Just as the public uprising of 1923 in Iraq against the British mandate became part of the collective memory and source of pride for the nation. This did not inhibit that Iraq has become what it is today: a failed state in complete disarray. Just as Iraq, the Arab revolutions will not succeed.
This is in nothing related to the incompatibility of Islam with democracy, or of Arabs in general not being suited for this type of political organization. It is rather due to hard economic facts that were the main reason for the revolution to start and will determine its end: the quest for jobs rather that for freedom, the right to eat rather than the right to speak.
Many researches have eventually shown the closeness of these factors. Mohamed Bouazizi, the street seller who immolated himself and became the straw that broke the camel’s back, it a perfect reflection of the relation between economic misery and non-respect for the individual. The revolts were partly driven by this lack of dignity and the perception of an elite that had lost all legitimacy in their people’s eyes. Nevertheless, the government that will provide for dignity but not for jobs will equally fail.
Just as Europe after World War II, the North African states would need a Marshall Plan to promote economy development and enhance job creation. It is difficult to determine where such funds would come from with regard of the current debt crises in Europe and the USA. Other countries such as China and Russia as well as the GCC states surely have plentiful of funds available for aid and investment; it is doubtful though that investment other than in strategic sectors would have any interest for their funds. Promotion of democracy, civil rights and state of law are, carefully worded, even less on top of the agenda of these countries.
Eventually, it would be wrong to measure all North African and Middle Eastern by the same yardstick. There are huge social, politic, economic and cultural disparities among every country concerned, even if the disgust with the elites was a common thread for the movements. Eventually the outcome may also vary as it already does from Egypt to Libya to Bahrain. But the only thing that could satisfy the populations is economic development – more than the pretty sentiment of justice or equality. And this development will take time and patience, an elite willing to make compromises, accept newcomers in their circles, and work for the country rather than for the own pockets. It will demand patience from the population because neither reforms are implemented nor jobs created in 6 months. Today, nothing of all of this is in place, undermining the legitimacy of the new governments, creating a situation of radicalization before the elections where not the most reasonable but the most populist has better chances. Other countries such as Libya and Syria are already experiencing the bitter taste of a state in erosion.
The uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East, especially the successful ones, have been like a sudden injection of Heroin into the veins of their population, creating a sentiment of euphoria – the aftermath is like a huge hangover with nostalgia of a promise reneged.
See in the second part how the population of other country’s might profit from the uprising, and how Europe is compromising its security