“Biggest international news story of the moment is the outbreak of rebellions - ‘revolution’ is too presumptuous a word at this stage - in lots of ‘Arab streets’, starting in Tunis, spreading to Cairo & Alexandria, and who knows where else?” - TT, February 2011.
That was back then, and its introduction ended with: “We’ll wait and see.”
Well, now it’s October, and we’ve waited, and we’ve seen, and ‘Where else?’ now includes Libya, Syria and Yemen..
So what do we see?
First, what we don’t see, or haven’t yet seen - revolutions.
We in the West - well, some of us, including some of the most brain-dead and hypocritical of us - are in love with the notion, the ‘construct’ (to use proper po-mo jargon), of ‘Revolution’. We - well, some of us - like to see revolutions as a clean sweep, a fresh start, a New Age, and, dare it be remembered? – a Year Zero. Some of us wear Che T-shirts, and think of ourselves as ‘revolutionary’.
Sad, isn’t it.
We blithely accepted, to greater or lesser degrees, the total nonsense from the Rudd government about an “Education Revolution”, and you only needed a tenth of a brain to realise very quickly that it wouldn’t be, and it wasn’t.
Back to the Arab Spring: is it to be followed by more Arab Winters?
So, let’s clear some nonsense up: what has happened so far in Tunisia, Libya and Egypt are NOT revolutions - demonstrations and uprisings: yes. Developing into rebellions and revolts: yes. But not yet ‘revolutions’.
Revolutions may or may not come. And, like a sales-person, let me show you some models:
Would you like 1649 or 1689?
Or 1689 or 1789?
What about 1776 or 1789?
Or 1947 or 1949?
And how about a choice between this selection - [1688(-89) / 1776 / 1947] or this one - [1789 / 1917 / 1949 / 1979]?
The first in each pairing may historically and formally be called ‘revolutions’, such as the “Glorious Revolution”, but would not be reckoned as such by current academic theoreticians. Why not? Because, despite some armed conflict, some very important changes, and some or even many deaths (in 1947, several millions), they were not followed by root & branch social, cultural & political upheaval and destruction.
For example, after 1776, despite the ‘revolutionary’ changes which ensued, these place-names continued:
Amelia County, Virginia, named for a daughter of King George II;
Prince Edward County, Virginia;
Prince George County, Virginia;
Prince George’s County, Maryland;
Prince William County, Virginia;
Queen Anne’s County, Maryland; and
Queens County, New York.
As did the names of Georgia, Maryland, Virginia and the Carolinas.
As did almost all the socio-cultural inheritance from across the Atlantic such as the common law and the English language, notwithstanding a very modest bit of spelling reform (far less than Mr Webster envisaged).
After 1947, most of the British Raj’s legal, educational, commercial, and military framework stayed intact in India. (And what is India’s lingua franca? What is India’s national sport?)
After the second of each pair, there followed mass purges, massacres and terror (including, after 1789, the original Terror), dictatorship & secret police, mass executions & imprisonments, and the imposition of religionist and ideological New Think. (Anyone still rooting for ‘New Soviet Man’?)
After 1979, the revolt against the Shah in Iran was hijacked by an Islamist Revolution. Will the same sort of thing occur in Tunisia, Libya and Egypt? Come to think of it, can there be a ‘moderate Islamism’, as claimed in this NY Times story:
Is ‘moderate Islamist political party’, in the first paragraph, the PC Oxymoron of the Year?
According to an edited version of a paper given at the 20th International Congress of Historical Sciences (Sydney 4-8 July 2005), “Jihad occupies a principal place in the writings of Islamists. Their starting point is the idea that Islam is a complete and coherent system whose aim is to spread the message of Islam, to destroy systems of government that are not based on the rules of Islam and to rebuild the world as an Islamic entity governed by the Koran and the teachings and practices of the prophet Mohammed.”
Hence, reports of increasing violence against Egypt’s Christian Copts:
And the second question: how quickly will the political / academic / commentariat class in the West fall for ‘moderate Islamism’, condoning or excusing the excesses of Islamic revolutions as inevitable? - “It’s their culture”. Or “It’s what they had to have”. Or “We should not (be trying to) impose ‘Western’ human rights on these people”. Or, the most stupid of our excuses, “That’d be White Racism”.
Wonder if in, say, ten years time, there will be Guided Tours for Gullibles in various Middle Eastern Islamic Republics, similar to ones I went on to China (1978) and Vietnam (1979)?
If our clever & credentialled are as moronically fawning on future caliphs as they were on past commissars, there will be no shortage of (fellow) travellers.
Will March and November 2011 be like the unfulfilled Февральская революция of March 1917 or the catastrophic Октябрьская революция of November 1917?