Louie, Hosni, David and Scott – birds of a feather?


The anti-cuts march in London

An estimated 500,000 rally at anti-cuts march

Bill Douglass had some good comments on yesterday’s post; first he suggested that some corporations, as Ford and Exxon had managed to renew themselves successfully; he also suggested not  all democracies are  able to renew themselves and may be more like an aged, failing champion than a youthful contender.  However, Bill said he preferred even that imperfect form of government to those of corrupt dictators.  Bill also challenged me on my confidence in the president of Chad as a reliable source of information.  Further he suggested that any time anyone uses the term al-Qaeda it is used not as an accurate description of an organization, but as a metaphor for the bogeymen and is used to instills fear.

Certainly he is at least partially right on both points.  However something else happened today that I think is a larger criticism of my simplistic metaphor of aging.  Today in London 500,000 (the number varies depending on the reporting agency and has grown on the Guardian during the day) people gathered in London to protest governemnt budget cuts.  Police are saying it was most peaceful with only a handful of violent incidents – 9 are reported to have been arrested.  It will take a couple of days, but I am interested in how this will be portrayed in the Middle East press.  The demonstration is a large enough of an event to be compared to the events in Egypt; and while the demands of the marchers and role of government may be very different there are still some similarities. Both are protesting what the characterize as an insensitive government and demanding better economic  conditions.

The “march” in London might also be compared to the events in Wisconsin, where state workers protested government budget cuts that impacted the workers directly in terms of jobs, benefits and retirement.  In Wisconsin unions also opposed a loss of status and bargaining power that were also part of the legislation.   I went back today and looked at some of video from Wisconsin, read some of the interviews and some editorials.  The demonstrations never reached the level of participation that they did in London or Cairo, but they were certainly impassioned.  There were two comments that intrigued me from Wisconsin.  One came from a retired school teacher interviewed at one of the demonstrations on the steps of the state capital building; she said, “I woke up in the middle of the night thinking about this and suddenly I understood the French Revolution.”

The second comment came from an editorial attempting to analyze the root causes of the budget crisis, but not necessary the root causes of the demonstration.  Of course if one knew the root cause to the budget crisis one would also know what lead to Governor Walker’s budget.  The writer theorized that technology was the underlying cause of the problems driving economic downturn.  In the writer’s mind, technological developments have produced and are continuing to produce innovations in production, distribution and the use of goods leading to a net loss of jobs, taxes and bricks and mortar businesses.   That makes for the ultimate irony – the technology being used to organize the demonstrations around the world is the root cause of the depressed economy and the misery of the demonstrators.

So, in summary another analytical  model for the Middle Eastern unrest and other places around the globe that, at least on a surface level, look very much like those in the Middle East.  The events are driven by economic factors – like the French Revolution, a lack of bread, cake and jobs – and at the moment most countries in the world are experiencing those same economic challenges, not enough bread or jobs and certainly no cake.  At it core, the economic problems are being exacerbated, if not caused, by a switch in technologies which is resulting in fewer jobs and less tax revenues to provide social services at a times of higher need.

Around the world the discontented and disenfranchised are calling upon that same technology that created the economic problems to organize and demonstrate against the governments they blame for the problem.  In this scenario the people and not the government are the enemy of the people.  If they would stop using electronic media for everything. If they stop buying the cheapest of everything there would be more jobs.  Jobs in the places jobs have been lost,  in manufacturing, newspapers, television and all forms of entertainment, retail and all forms of commerce.  Our switch to buying online, viewing online and communicating online is easier and quicker, but it comes at a price – that price is jobs and tax revenues; past those two then comes social services which must be cut to match tax revenues.

I don’t think this any more of a complete way to view the problems in Cairo, London or Madison that using an age metaphor or any other one dimensional analysis.  I do however, think it bears thinking about.  Some of these problems are not going away any time soon.  For certain that means that the social unrest is also not going away any time soon.  Whenever the average citizen feels his/her and the government’s interests are at odds then social unrest is possible – and if the living conditions are difficult enough, then social unrest can lead to…. well for example, the French Revolution.  Times when a middle-aged, retired school teacher in conservative Wisconsin feels a kinship with the unwashed rabble in the streets of Paris, storming the Bastille and cheering at the fall of the blade of the guillotine are scary times indeed. And of course Louis XVI,  Hosni Mubarak, David Cameroon and Scott Walker are not birds of a feather, but while they don’t share feathers they may share economic conditions.

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