Thursday, February 3, 2011

Hey Hosni, you're history.

Whether he steps down immediately or manages to hang on til September, when he said he'd step down, Hosni Mubarak is over. His minion, Omar Suleiman, has been appointed vice-president. But Suleiman is seen as a Mubarak clone. It's unclear whether he can do anything to quell the protests without kicking out Mubarak.

There is a lot going down in the Middle East right now. Tunisia's president has fled to the more hospitable climes of southern France; Jordan's king has dismissed his government, Egyptians are moving against Mubarak, Ali Abdullah Saleh of Yemen is stepping down in 2013 (he says—apparently he has a history  of saying he'll step down and not doing it) and there are even protests in Saudi Arabia and Sudan.
Saudi Arabia?

"Something is happening here, and you don't know what it is, do you Mr. Jones?"
Mr. Jones, in this case, being  not only the Arab governments involved, but also the United States government.
I'm not sure that Tunisia had a big presence in the attention of America's security agencies, but Mubarak certainly has. Jordan's king has been a friend—and a genuinely moderating influence in the Middle East; Saleh in Yemen has allowed the US to deploy our drones to attack terrorists in his country; and the US always attends to the Saudis, in spite of the fact that 19 of the 9/11 villains were Saudis.
What are we doing about these upheavals?
"Watching and responding."
So said PJ Crowley, US state department spokesman, in a recent interview with Al Jazeera.
We're watching and responding. Uh-huh. We're watching as our boys are getting their clocks wiped by the people they have been oppressing all these years. And so far we're responding by saying "Oh shit, what do we do now?"
In the meantime, people in Cairo are picking up the spent tear gas canisters fired at them and reading "Made in the USA."
We sure know how to make friends.

Americans have been blessed in a way, by being separated from the rest of the world by two great oceans. But we have been cursed by that separation as well. The separation means that the problems "over there" are not ours.
The separation means that the problems "over there" are ours big time because we need the oil for gas from "over there" to get to the mall to buy something made of petrochemicals from "over there" that we need, just need, for our homes.
And for those of us at a certain distance from the equator, some of that oil from "over there' is necessary for life, to heat our homes.

Most of us though, are more aware of how the ocean separation of us from the rest of the world benefits us, than we are of how it hurts us.
And this brings me back to Mr. Jones.

In Bob Dylan's song, Mr. Jones is on the wrong side of history. He doesn't understand what is going on with all these people in the bar into which he walked. He doesn't even know that this is not a bar, it is his world and it has changed. It has changed into something that is not "his" world anymore, and he doesn't see that it is not just "their" world, but it is now "our" world.
Politically speaking, that"our" is a real problem.
 There is no way for there to be an "our" entity without some (apparent) loss to the "my" entity.
Do you want democracy? Then you have to put up with Republicans, or Democrats, controlling the House of Representatives and/or the Senate. If you are a Republican you have to grin and bear it when Democrats are in power. Ditto for Democrats when Republicans are in power.
When Obama, or anyone else for that matter, talks about bipartisanship, he is acknowledging that concessions have to made, that slack has to be given, that the world doesn't necessarily want to correspond to our desires, or anyone else's desires.

The world doesn't have desires. It has its momentum and its trajectory. We may be able to adjust that trajectory with our desires, but we have to align ourselves to it first.
This is the realm of religion and/or philosophy, not politics. Or rather, it is where politics should be, if not corrupted by the exigencies of the physical world. Like the financial incentives of lobbyists.

This we need to understand, as a nation— that we are not God's gift to the world, but we have to understand that we can give a lot to the world if we think about what the rest of the world needs rather than what we desire it to have. If we understand that if some impoverished people survive, and that that is more important than if Goldman Sacks survives, or AIG survives, then we may have made some progress toward divinity.

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