JIM Hoagland, writing in the Washington Post, says: “We have seen how information technology can provide a spark that sets afire the kindling of economic and social distress.”
That was Hoagland’s way of concluding an opening salvo that said: “Grinding civil war in Libya, a state-organised bloodbath in Syria and troubling stumbles in Egypt’s march to democracy dim the lustre of Arab revolts that began the year in glory. This Arab summer is a political season of reaction and reversal.”
What Hoagland refers to as “the virus of modern communication” most pundits have labelled “the Arab Spring”.
The implication is that all protests have occurred for the same reason and in the same part of the world. That’s simply not true.
Not all demonstrations have been agitating for democracy. According to Don Tapscott writing in The Guardian:
“A common thread to the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt and protests elsewhere in the Middle East and North Africa is the soul-crushing high rate of youth unemployment. Twenty-four per cent of young people in the region cannot find jobs.”
But the reasons for youth rebellions differ from place to place. Not all have been due to unemployment.
Commenting on student dissent in Chile, writer John Daly says:
“An element common to all these events is the population’s rising anger over governments’ perceived ineptitude and even outright corruption, inflicting financial misery on all but a privileged elite.”
Few young people consider what effect their protests will have. Little heed gets paid by these youthful protesters to the cost of their revolutionary zeal. They blithely ignore the disaster their activities have caused to their national economies.
Millions in Tunisia and Egypt, for instance, have been dependent on the tourist trade, now lost and sacrificing the livelihoods of the entire industry’s workers.
The demonstrators in the recent revolts only look at perceived injustices and pay scant attention to what will replace the systems they oppose.
Even Israel is hosting an Arab Spring. After experiencing demonstrations that saw “hundreds of thousands of Israelis” take to the streets, a Haaretz editorial comments: “We are in the midst of what is increasingly shaping up to be an Israeli revolution.”
Monarchs, presidents and prime ministers are almost never universally opposed.
During the demonstrations in North Africa, those who supported the existing governments didn’t take to the streets until large numbers of Libyans rose up to defend the Gadaffi regime in Tripoli.
And what of the prospects for more protests and demonstrations in Europe?
Protests in Europe have been largely due to youth unemployment and worse are expected because of budget cutbacks and debt crises.
Kids with no jobs ran amok in London.
Look for more demonstrations in Europe like those in Greece (with 38.5pc unemployment) and by the jobless in countries facing financial crises like Spain (45.7pc unemployment), Italy (27.8pc unemployment) and Ireland (26.9pc unemployment).
Who knows? Disastrous economics in America could usher in a riotous summer. There are already calls for a “Day of Rage” in the US.
* Paul J. Balles is a retired American university professor and freelance writer who has lived in the Middle East for many years. He’s a weekly Op-Ed columnist for the Gulf Daily News. Dr. Balles is also Editorial Consultant for Red House Marketing and a regular contributor to Bahrain This Month.