The shifting sands of history are indeed shifting

Sometimes it just does not seem possible to make sense of events as they unfold; we can follow their sequence, detail and describe them as they happen, but that does mean we can really understand them in any long-term historical sense – try as we might.   The Arab Spring began in Tunisia on December 17, 2010 – today, October 22, 2011, people in Tunisia are voting.  Tomorrow the interim government in Libya is expected to announce victory, the end of 42 years of Gaddafi rule and the beginning of a new era with elections within 8 months.  Egypt has extended the period for registrations of political parties, but the elections are still scheduled for November 28th.  That is three elections within a year of each other after decades of dictatorships and sham elections.

Morocco, Algeria and Jordan are also re-engineering their governing systems, minus the drama and sometimes violent change in leadership Egypt, Tunisia and Libya experienced, promising more open and democratic societies.  Viewed within the frame of year the changes seem earth-scattering; we don’t, however, know what will happen after the elections, or what further changes will occur over the next decade or two.  By contrast, we are judging all the previous governments over a half century and all three were viewed very differently in the first years of their existence – they too were seen as revolutionary and positive changes.  It will be a long time before any meaningful interpretation of the Arab Spring can be made.

However, having said that, I point to cartoon from the Arab News – a Saudi Arabian English language publican – it makes a classic statement.  In the long history of the world, especially the desert world of the Arabs, the wind and sand eventually wipe away all traces of once great empires and regimes.  The sands are already starting to cover Mubarak, Gaddafi and Ben Ali.  Whatever else happens those empires, founded in the aftermath of World War II and  pre-war colonialism have passed into history – their memories are not likely to last very long in historical terms.


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October 2011
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