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Friday, May 13, 2011

Why Should We Care About Middle Eastern Protests

I know that many of my fellow Americans are wondering why we should care about Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Lebanon, Syria, Bahrain, and the many other countries in the Middle East and elsewhere.  Look at what’s happening in our world and ask yourself why.  Of course, there are many answers, some as simple as looking at the histories of the countries in which these massive social upheavals are happening.  Many reach far beyond their borders.  Many of the answers to the question “why” can be allocated to far wider, even global forces.
I absolutely guarantee that the answers to “why” don’t include strictly parochial explanations.  First, there is simply the chasm that has opened between the haves and the have-nothings.  Even in this country, the gap has increased markedly, and it is clear, as the wealthiest individuals and corporations hold fast to their vast wealth, that the chances of the have-nots ascending to the top are essentially at an end.  We have spoken for decades, and, in fact, centuries, about wanting our children to have a better life than ours, for each successive generation to be better educated, better housed, have better life styles, etc.   We all still want that for our scions, of course.  The opportunities are rapidly vanishing.  Think about that.
Thousands of American youth graduate from our universities every year.  Until recently, very few had difficulty finding jobs.  That is no longer true.  Sure, if you graduate with a useful degree (say medicine, finance, computer science, etc.), you may be employable.  It is certain that whatever you would have received as a starting salary and benefit package just five or six years ago cannot be matched now.  Just to have a job, most of these highly educated young people are willing to bargain for far less.
Okay, got that picture?  Now, think about the youth in the rest of the world.  If you are a young Egyptian (plug in most other countries) who has recently received a degree, your chances of actually earning a living right now are pathetically poor.  So, you pinned your hopes on education, right?  Most of those around you are surviving on less than two dollars a day.  Most are hungry when they go to bed.  Meanwhile, you have a cell phone, access to a computer, are able to watch television, where absurd things are advertised, many of which are telling you that life should be better.  And now, ask yourself, if you were one of these young, hopeful, educated, and unemployed young people, what can you expect?  Further, what can you do about the hopelessness that is rapidly taking over your heart and mind?  You have energy, ideas, and lots of friends who are equally frustrated.  There is absolutely no question, it’s time to fight back, time to take your case to the streets.  After all, if you have just wasted all of your intellect on an endeavor that promises you nothing, you are angry, even furious, about the massive injustice, not just toward you, but toward your family and friends who are suffering mightily with no hope of improvement.
Don’t smugly believe that, as an American, you are better off.  You may be, just slightly, for the moment.  There are more than seven billion people on this planet who are competing with you for food, energy, air, water, freedom….
Watching our news channels report on these “hot” spots almost amuses me.  They do no analysis at all.  They don’t look at history, or go below the surface to look for explanations.  I truly and deeply resent the fact that people with time, intellect and resources are quite happy to keep the real answers to themselves.  What’s even worse is that they use much of what they learn to convince us that this country is so much better than elsewhere.  I know, we’re not being shot in the streets by our government for peacefully rallying for change.  What I really want to know is, that with millions losing jobs, earning less, paying more for gas (and nearly everything), and having a totally dysfunctional government, how come none of the tens of millions are out protesting the destruction of this country?  Better start looking in the mirror and deciding how much the future means.  Time to speak up while it’s still legal to raise your voice in public.

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