Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Revolution in the Middle East

In Tunisia there were popular protests that caused a president to resign in a currently boiling over endless struggle of politics.  In Egypt there are similar protests going on in another active struggle for democracy.

In my opinion one cannot "have" a democracy, one can only constantly (re)create a democracy which if it were truly investigated is hardly democracy. Which is why one must keep reaching for democracy as if one does not have it, but this process of reaching for democracy is itself the closest thing to actually "having" democracy. The protests (or to put it in a different way to leave the negative connotations our corporate media has attached to that word): "a conglomeration of public politically active peoples" is a good thing in any country. People need to engage in the political process as individuals not as pieces of an illusory homogenized whole that is then "represented". As an individual against orthodoxy, I would like to explain why I can hold such a view when I am critical of all epistemologies because of internal contradictions.

It is my belief that the best way to explain anything is to historicize it. How can I justify holding a belief that people within any country no matter how the government is labeled(democracy, dictatorship, oligarchy etc.) will benefit from actively engaging the political process?

Lets start with Egypt, which is the center of a question for US policy right now: Should the US support the protesters against one of the largest recipients of U.S. Aid? Support the protestors against the regime which moderated enough to recognize Israel(thats why the Aid)? Support the protestors against the regime which houses many of their CIA black sites?

The easy answer for the United States is to just be quiet and stay in the background like Tunisia. The problem with that is that silence is violence for the United States, because of its ubiquity in the domestic governments of many countries. Current  conceptions of sovereignty which are not fluid cannot recognize that the United States is in many ways a de facto world government. Certain countries have surrendered autonomy in certain places to get things from the hegemon(US). In Okinawa the soldiers can rape, murder, and drive drunk all day. They can't be prosecuted, because of the Status of Force Agreement between Japan and the US. This is in return for the United States military protection of their country cerntrally and military protection of the energy supply more loosely. When the United States does nothing about a spontaneous flare up of democratic tendencies, it is giving an OK to the regime which will tamp it down.
The United States should not take the easy way out and instead follow the advice of Jefferson and MLK jr: democratic revolution. The american revolution was not a divinely ordained event and it did not expose any universal truths. What I mean to say by these two qualities is that the american revolution can be exported, what I mean by the latter is that this revolution is not a universal truth so we should not engage in violence which would be an action of forcing democracy on a people which is a farce as we see in Iraq. The revolution should be exported, but with ideas and support(monetary, logistical). The only problem is that our revolution was too violent, our country was created by terrorists, in order to make sure that part of our revolution doesn't get exported we need to support peaceful revolutions WHENEVER the opportunity presents itself. Like in Tunisia and Egypt. But that is simply an ethical concern, why would I really be able to justify such a strong statement that these flare-ups of democracy are good and crushing them is bad?

The only justified knowledge comes from history, so lets look specifically at Egypt. Egypt was a country colonized by multiple powers, but eventually the British got a monopoly. During this time Britain controlled the political apparatus of Egypt through their puppets the Monarchs. Eventually nationalist groups or groups that are united by their national identity starting growing. These individuals felt that monarchs who pretended to be pious while allowing Britain to run the country were not good for their interests. Many nationalist uprisings were slaughtered by the British. In an example of where democratic action was not allowed to happen by an overbearing government. In a policy that is still alive today in Egypt any political parties had to be licensed in a process that no party except those which were puppets of Britain were allowed to exist. In this context the Society of The Muslim Brethren was formed. Religion being the one area which the regime would shy away from regulating. This society was a welfare and community service oriented entity. Through writing, criticizing, and activism using religion as the justification for demands the Muslim Brotherhood made attempts to better the political situation of Egyptians who faced an uncaring colonial power and later an autocratic nationalist regime.

The next generation of Brotherhood leaders included an individual named Sayyid Qutb. Qutb was put in prison and tortured for his political activism. Many other members of the brotherhood were treated in similar ways. The torture effected Qutb's outlook and thusly influenced the outlook of the entire Muslim Brotherhood, which by this time had proved a huge success (in terms of membership) with international potential. Qutb essentially opted out of the peaceful means of his predecessors. How can one be peaceful and criticize through the language of Islam, but face torture and imprisonment for it? What was the brotherhood going to gain from repeating this process? The people in power will stay in power and people who speak out for Muslims or Egyptians will receive the worst of all possible existences: life as torture. It was time to turn the page on these ineffective attempts at democracy and take a cue from the American Revolution: use violence.

Qutb became a lionized figure of violent jihad to such a degree, that it is impossible to imagine 9/11 without the life experience and subsequent writings of Qutb. I do not mean to say that Qutb bears responsibility for 9/11 and I do not mean to say that the hijackers, wahabbi, saudi, or pakistan do not bear their responsibility. I am only pointing out that things become possible by their historical trajectory. If Britain had brought democratic reforms they might still be in a great mutual beneficial relationship with Egypt, far more advantageous to Britain in the long run then blowing money keeping democracy down and eventually getting thrown out. If the nationalists had learned from the mistakes of the monarchs/britain and made political parties an accepted part of democracy the Brethren wouldn't have had to go underground. If the Egyptian government hadn't been dead set on imprisoning, torturing, and martyring the leaders of a religious movement maybe violent jihadis wouldn't have so much motivation and empirical evidence for the justification of violence.

Non-violent democracy should be cherished and supported. If one does not support such events, there are two alternatives: do nothing or actively destroy. Doing nothing is seen as complicity with the current regime, because of the close relationship Egypt has with the United States, they cannot feign ignorance with such a key ally. Which means they lend legitimacy to the efforts of the Egyptian government to actively destroy. This has taken the form of violent counter-democratic actions: beatings, chemical warfare, rubber bullets, etc.

When groups attempt to achieve their agenda peacefully and are met with violence, these groups learn that they cannot achieve their agenda peacefully. This leaves one option: violence.

If instead when groups attempt to achieve their agenda peacefully they are met with debate and compromise, that group will feel that they have won and will feel empowered by their inclusion in the political process, reducing the probability of violence to a negligible amount.

If we don't want more Al-Qaedas and more violent idealogues with the scars to justify such venom, then we should use our foreign policy to support groups who engage in the political process.

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