Some recent events in Egypt and Tunisia illustrate the whole trouble with street mobs supposedly calling for “reform” – that in a situation described more by anarchy than any sort of clear higher purpose, it becomes difficult to sort the devils from the angels. Reports of looters vandalising ancient Egyptian artifacts and of Tunisian shopkeepers suffering financially from the business disruption of protests there suggesting that some of the rampaging gangs are simply not interested in a return to normal life.
Much of the chatter in “social media” had already collectively stamped a high-nosed “people power” brand onto the escalating unrest in Egypt and similar rumblings in the rest of the Arab world. But is deposing an Arab dictator really a good thing?
Recall the cases of the sort of state that Iran became after its Shah was deposed in 1979. Or what a grand crusade the War-Against-Terror-branded second Iraq invasion seemed to be at the time — before everyone realised there were no weapons of mass destruction. By the time the religious and moral fervor that fueled the US invasion of Iraq died down, the foolish hubris of presuming to resort to direct intervention to topple a Third World “tyrant” had become evident as warlords and Islamic zealots descended upon the political vacuum left by the fall of Saddam Hussein, ruler of what was once a relatively stable mercantile secular state.
So I sit here today quite bemused by the way Filipino pundits engage in quaint chatter as they “monitor” events in Egypt. It seems here that we fancy ourselves some sort of godfather of “people power” politics doting upon fledglings taking baby steps halfway around the world.
But what “freedom” had wrought upon the Philippines in the aftermath of the 1986 Edsa “revolution” — the eventual takeover of the government by clueless Eraptards and Noytards — may not result in as benign an outcome in the Middle East. Indeed, the ominous shadow of Islamic fundamentalism cast by some powerful elements in those Egyptian and Tunisian mobs becomes more evident by the day. “People power” in the Philippines is unlikely to apply today and over there any more than the principles underlying the victory of allied forces against the tyranny of Adolf Hitler in World War II and the rebuilding of Germany and Japan paralleled themselves in the subsequent US invasions of Vietnam and Iraq.
Solutions that worked elsewhere cannot be turned into shrinkwrapped products to be sold in other societies without taking into account the nature of the culture of the societies being impacted. Perhaps we should observe the events unfolding in the Middle East with a more open and critical mind and not colour these with our pre-conceived notions that are propped up by nothing more than relics of 1980’s thinking.