I don't trust the coverage we're getting, because behind it I see a smirk - both from the people in the news rooms, and from our western governments.
Since September 11, 2001 - and before - the west has seen the Muslim states as their enemy, at least partially. Now that there are several popular upheavals against governments in those states, there seems to be a bit of smugness in our reaction. Oh, we genuinely care about the plight of people there: but we are also glad to see the comeuppance of these governments that formed oil cartels and stood against us and had the economic power to oppose our governments' worldview.
This reaction seems to be slanting our view of what's going on. I don't view the protests as primarily about democracy. I think it's more a matter of demographics.
Years ago, I heard a lecture by a demographer who said that in coming years (about now), the proportion of 18 to 25 year-olds in Arab states would result in social upheaval. He said that the proportion of young adults would be so high that they would face massive unemployment, and that historically that led to violence - and he said the only way to avoid it was to give them an outlet through emigration.
We don't hear anything like that in our current coverage. It's all about the dream of democracy. But what democracy? Toppling a dictator does not guarantee democracy. More likely it results in another dictator.
A few other thoughts:
- Fair elections cost a lot: $200 million and up. Can all these countries afford them? Is democracy sustainable?
- As Hannah Arendt argued, the political/economic system adopted by a country is only part of the picture: culture is the major factor. Changing the way the government is chosen is not always as much a game-changer as we assume.
- How much of all this is due to problems of countries whose economies are developing on the back of oil production? There are all sorts of things at play: a dominant industry that provides relatively little employment; the interference of oil-consuming nations; the ownership of the industry by giant multinationals; the potential for corruption; etc etc.