Sunday, January 30, 2011

Siddiqui: perspective on protests

By Haroon Siddiqui, Toronto Star, January 29, 2011
(Also) laid bare are the Orwellian phrases used by Western, especially North American, governments and the media to hide the truth.

The despotic regimes in our camp have been marketed as “stable,” “moderate” and “modern,” which have been battling antediluvian extremists, anti-American and anti-Israel “Islamists” and “terrorists.”
Some regimes have indeed had the stability of the graveyard. Even that’s no longer assured.
There’s nothing “moderate” about regimes that treat their citizens no differently than Iran. Hosni Mubarak has been no less a tyrant than Baby Doc or Papa Duvalier. Or Zine El Abidine Ben Ali of Tunisia. Or Ali Abdullah Saleh of Yemen. Our friends, all.
There’s nothing “modern” about rulers who are corrupt to the core, preside over vast nepotistic networks and provide little or no transparency to finances or governance.
What of the hordes we are warned about and against whom our allies were ostensibly the buffer?
From Tunisia to Yemen, Algeria to Egypt, they have the same demands — oust the despots and the thieves; end the oppression; give people basic freedoms and the basics of life so some don’t have to self-immolate themselves in protest.
The crowds in Cairo chant, “Silmiyah, Silmiyah” (peaceful, peaceful), telling each other not to give the security thugs the excuse to crack open some more skulls.
They all want what we want — freedom, democracy, equality, equal economic opportunity, dignity.
And if many among them hate us, it’s not because they hate our values but because we thwart their quest for our values. It’s our gas canisters, water cannons, guns and bullets that are being used on them.
They are not the crazy bearded mullahs who were said to be waiting in the wings. They are instead a diverse lot, led mostly by young, educated, secular democratic activists of the emerging civil societies empowered by the Internet and social media.
They are not shouting for the sharia but rather chanting: “The crescent and the cross against torture and murder;” “Muslims and Christians, we all demand change.”
The world we once knew, spotted, dotted and impregnated with the words of our leaders generating perceptions that made their positions both tenable and tolerable, even if those words and positions were suspect, has gone. We now are learning about the shaping of our perceptions by the political classes, including some in the media itself, and that shaping ignored much of the reality behind the scenes, as it were.
Today, there is no "behind the scenes" for political leaders anymore. The world has become one open microphoned and photographed and instantly-disseminated  human drama, only the names and the streets and the countries change. Today, we are watching and listening to the words of the people on the streets, where the technology has been permitted. (In China, by contrast, there is barely a word about the Egyptian protests, and even the access to the social media there has eliminated the word Egypt from access to the people.)
Dictators whom the west supports will no longer be as easily supported with western dollars, given the identification of the people of the west with the people under seige. If our money is going to support dictatorships, we are less likely to agreed to such 'spending.' If our leaders are propping up what they have called 'moderate' governments, which are really poorly disguised tyrannies, those tyrannies will be shown for what they really are. And if our money is buying military materiel to be used by those despots, then it is time our money is blocked from such end uses.
The hands of the leaders of the governments of the west, if Siddiqui is right, are stained with their own actions. And eventually they will have to account for those actions. And it will not likely be 'pretty' as the cliche puts it.

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