The aim is not to promote an organic Arab democracy ‘of the people, and for the people,’ but rather to promote an evolutionary “democratization” in which the old despots of American strategic support are removed in favour of a neoliberal democratic system, in which the outward visible institutions of democracy are present (multi-party elections, private media, parliaments, constitutions, active civil society, etc); yet, the power-holders within that domestic political system remain subservient to U.S. economic and strategic interests, continuing to follow the dictates of the IMF and World Bank, supporting America’s military hegemony in the region, and “opening up” the Arab economies to be “integrated” into the world economy. Thus, “democratization” becomes an incredibly valuable strategy for maintaining hegemony; a modern re-hash of “Let them eat cake!” Give the people the ‘image’ of democracy and establish and maintain a co-dependent relationship with the new elite. Thus, democracy for the people becomes an exercise in futility, where people’s ‘participation’ becomes about voting between rival factions of elites, who all ultimately follow the orders of Washington.
This strategy also has its benefit for the maintenance of American power in the region. While dictators have their uses in geopolitical strategy, they can often become too independent of the imperial power and seek to determine the course of their country separate from U.S. interests, and are subsequently much more challenging to remove from power (i.e., Saddam Hussein). With a “democratized” system, changing ruling parties and leaders becomes much easier, by simply calling elections and supporting opposition parties. Bringing down a dictator is always a more precarious situation than “changing the guard” in a liberal democratic system.
from “America’s Strategic Repression of the ‘Arab Awakening'”
The fever pitch excitement and elation on February 11th echoed another event in recent history: the Obama election. The power of the people was hailed and a new chapter in history emerged. After the disastrous upset of a false success the night before, when Mubarak appeared on television and called the Egyptian people his children, a pallid Omar Suleiman appeared the next night and said he was gone. Rejoice! Television presenters wiped tears from their eyes. The people danced in the streets. Finally – justice prevailed. Egypt was free! But what did that mean?
I was called a cynic immediately for not joining the rejoicing masses. Yet I’d been led on before. The election of Obama was supposed to herald a new age in progress and democracy and it has done nearly the opposite. Likewise, the day after Mubarak left office and the television cameras began to be shipped back home, the Egyptian military began a quiet bust-up of the few hundred protesters remaining in Tahrir Square who insisted with some confusion that their demands for democracy and a free society had not yet been made! The promises of the army to hold elections in September nearly echoed the ones made by Mubarak. Yet the people had cried for his resignation. Well, give the people what they want – but not what they really want. With so many slogans centered around one man, the dangerous possibility of the entire movement being co-opted by his name became a reality. With Mubarak gone, what was there left to complain about? You got what you asked for – now get back to work!
I still plan on traveling to Egypt in the coming weeks and will report back what I see, if these steps towards democracy – this outrageous show of the people’s power – have gained any wins towards alleviating the day-to-day situation of the Egyptian people. I sincerely hope things have improved, yet it remains to be seen if the conditions of over 20 million living in slums on less than a dollar a day will have changed much. A social movement is only gauged in how it uplifts the lowest members in that society. I would hate for Mubarak to be right on this point. I sincerely hope the protesters were not simply the petit-bourgeois reacting to satellite television. I hope history sees February 11th as the first battle won in a broad people’s movement for actual change.
Posted in america, capitalism, communism, globalization, history, human rights, neo-colonialism, public relations, the future, western lifestyle, Western perspective
Tagged america, cairo, cynicism, demoracy, egypt, february 11th, mubarak, NED, populism, regime-change, revolution
To return to the Tunisian riot, it is very likely that it is itself going to continue – and divide itself – by proclaiming that the figure of power that it will put in place it is so disconnected from the popular movement that it no longer wants it. On what criteria, then, can we evaluate the riot? In the first place, the criteria must have a definite empathy towards the riot, this is an absolutely necessary condition. It’s negative power is recognised, a lamentable [honni] power that vanishes [effrondre] fully into its own image [symboles]. But what is affirmed? The Western press has already responded by saying that what was expressed their was a Western desire. What we can affirm is that a desire for liberty is involved and that such a desire is without debate a legitimate desire under a regime both despotic and corrupt as was that of Ben Ali. How this desire as such suggests a Western desire is very uncertain [plus problématique].
Alain Badiou, 19 January 2011
I told my friends Egypt was too big to fail – words heralding some sort of nasty bailout at any cost to the livelihood of the people whose “stake” was involved. I still believe Egypt is too big to fail. Western revolutionaries sit on the edge of their seats watching Al Jazeera, biting their nails because – as Badiou says – the end of history is not yet here! We can still take to the streets and enact change through revolutionary non-violent means – a million people in Tahrir square!
Yet, I am pessimistic. If Egypt can be salvaged as a client state of the West in any way, then it will be salvaged at any cost. Perhaps the poison has already entered the veins of the people as they choose to protest peacefully for the cameras, appealing to the Western mindset of nonviolence and peaceful flower-laden revolutions. They tweet, update facebook statuses, call in to radio and television shows… their message is united: Mubarak ETLA min Masr! They forget, though, that the Western news cycle is fickle. A manufactured win, like Mubarak offering to leave office in September, will stand in for actual closure. A new story will rise up on the wave and – if conditions persist- Egypt will be forgotten in a month.
The Western media, accusing Obama now of “abandoning” Mubarak, is not abandoning the people of Egypt. CNN, FOX, etc raise the terrifying specter of Islamic fundamentalism, war with Israel (a big no-no!), and anti-American sentiments in Egypt. I intend to travel to Egypt myself in the coming weeks to prove this to be untrue and to see for myself what happens when democracy is betrayed.
Egypt is the lynchpin that holds the status quo of the Middle East in place. Our prisoners are tortured there, our oil goes through the Suez, and our catspaw Israel gets to lash out at whoever they like so long as Egypt holds a shaky peace. The West stood on uncertain feet at this strong show of displeasure and was careful to craft their responses, but their actions will speak louder than words when they install a new puppet more friendly to global economic interests at the end of 2011. Actions will speak louder than words when a new government just as friendly to Western interests is installed in Tunisia.
The one benefit of this whole exercise for the Western observer is that we have finally seen the face of hypocrisy and naked greed laid bare. Our propaganda slips and falls in a terribly undignified way with our response to Egypt. Yet this too may be forgotten in the coming weeks, as the news cycle turns over and over again, leaving the 79 million people of Egypt in the dust of the “end of history”.
Posted in america, capitalism, choice, conspiracies, globalization, history, human rights, Islam, israel, neo-colonialism, orientalism, public relations
Tagged badiou, blogal interests, cairo, cynicism, egypt, globalization, mubarak, news cycle, obama, propaganda, tahrir square, the west