As events in the Middle East have unfolded this month, starting first in the streets of Tunisia, and this morning with the fall of the government in Jordan, I have been talking with activists around the world to get their take of the situation. Dramatic and surprising things are happening and I have been glued to the internet to understand it better. This is the new frontier for how we can get the news, not second-hand, but from direct sources. We no longer have to only rely on Walter Cronkite (my day) or John Stewart (my kids' new day), or Glen Beck (some of my blood relatives). Today, from Abdellah, my friend in Morocco, I learned that the streets in his country remain relatively quiet, but supportive of the street protests in Egypt. From Ali*, a youth activist from Gaza, I learn that Gaza youth are very active in support of the protests, and it could affect politics there, where both the local government (Hamas) and surrounding governments (Israel) remain hostile to freedoms of the citizens in Gaza. I talk via skype with activists in Lebanon, (who participated in running mock elections like the one pictured here) and learned that there is lots of talk among youth leaders there about these unfolding events and what it means for their own country.
This all helps start to paint the picture of the real situation. And, when I combine it with on the ground reports from CNN and trusted voices like Nicholas Kristoff who is talking with folks on the streets in Cairo, I begin to get a sense of what is really happening now.
But using that to predict what will happen next is tricky. Obama is trying to do the same thing, and I suspect he has just a few more direct sources than the rest of us. And even with that, it is hardly predictable. Will Mubarek resign (I think yes) but will the government that replaces him be less repressive and improve the social conditions in any significant way? Will Egypt become more hostile to the US? Will Yemen, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia follow in the Tunisian path and democracy and civil society grow in the region? If Martin Luther King is right, and "the Arc of the Universe is long, but it bends toward justice", then this may happen. Over time. A long time.
My brother and I celebrated my birthday this weekend with 3 days of golf, a massage, and then a rare trip to the local casino for a game of roulette. I won big, taking home an extra $67, (which will go directly into that very large, and very deep black hole we call "Jenny's College Fund" ). Yet, as my financial wizard brother informed me, "the Arc of the roulette wheel is also long, but it bends very predictably towards the House".
The optimist in me wants to say that the organizing in the streets calling for improved social conditions and free expression that is spreading like wildfire now will result in improved living conditions for folks in several more countries in the decade ahead. And the optimist in me also wants to return to the Casino table, now that I am on a roll.
I hope Dr. King is right. I know my brother is right.
*(Actual names in this post not used to ensure confidentiality
This is your new blog post. Click here and start typing, or drag in elements from the top bar.
Greg Tuke teaches and travels internationally, working with university faculty in India, Indonesia and the MIddle East, sharing strategies for implementing international collaborations within course work. This blog chronicles key experiences and insights about those experiences. All opinions expressed are mine, and represent no other institutional affiliation.