This is why all young people should pay close attention to what is happening in Egypt, to the protests against the regime of Hosni Mubarak as well as the pathetic response coming from his imperial partner, the US, which has given him many billions in military and secret police aid to keep him in power.
The US is in much the same situation today as the Soviet Union was in 1989, as a series of socialist dominoes toppled. Poland, Romania, Hungary, East Germany, Bulgaria, and Czechoslovakia all experienced dramatic meltdowns, while the Soviet regime, supportive of these systems since the end of the Second World War, sat by helplessly and watched. Leaders made vague statements about the need for peaceful transitions and elections, while the people on the ground completely ignored them.
What has sparked the uprising? There are economic considerations, of course. A good rate of inflation in Egypt is considered to be 10%, and currency depreciation works as a massive punishment against savings and capital accumulation. Unemployment is high, about the same rate as the US, but is even higher for young people who are worried about the future.
Economic growth has been much better in the last decades thanks to economic reforms, but this tendency (as in the old Soviet bloc) has only worked to create rising expectations and more demands for freedom. It remains a fact that nearly half the population lives in terrifying poverty.
The core of the problem, it appears, relates to civil liberties and the very old-fashioned conviction that the country is ruled by a tyrant who must go. Mubarak tolerates no challenges to his martial-law rule. There are tens of thousands of political prisoners in the country, and it is easy to get arrested and tortured simply by calling the dictator names. The press is censored, opposition groups are suppressed, and corruption runs rampant. Mubarak’s will to power has known no bounds: he chooses all the country’s elites based solely on personal loyalty to himself.
Mubarak has ruled for 30 years and yes there have been elections every six years, but these are widely seen as for show only. Opposition candidates end up prosecuted for a variety of invented crimes. Democracy in Egypt is merely a slogan for one-party rule. And this is striking: the main excuse for his martial law is one that is all-too-familiar to Americans: the war on terror (and never mind the terror dispensed by the warriors themselves).
Probably a more substantive issue concerns the digital revolution and the opening up of the entire world through the Internet – a species of the very thing that the US cited as the reason for the anti-Soviet uprisings of the late eighties and early nineties. Many young people in Egypt are as connected to the world through social media as American teenagers, and enjoy access to the sights and sounds of the modernity that the regime so opposes.
The Tipping Point Has Passed: Sweeping Change is at Hand