By Mohamed Chtatou
The Arab Spring has undoubtedly failed miserably, for instead of ushering in democracy and an era of prosperity and development, it is bringing disunity and discomfort to the inhabitants of the region who are already plagued by endemic poverty and lack of opportunity for development and now have to put up with insecurity and the uncertainty of the future. Many, today, regret not taking advantage of the pre-Spring era that provided job opportunity and lots of security, whereas today they all live with the uncertainty of tomorrow and the fear of not been able to feed their families. I don’t think the poor and the middle class are apologetic of dictatorship, but to be honest if they have to choose between bread and democracy, they would opt out for the latter–heaven can wait after all.
To be honest I have never accepted the misnomer “Arab Spring” used in the press for the era of protest and contestation ignited by the courageous act of the Tunisian vegetable and fruit vendor Bouazizi. A few flowers can never announce spring, nor make it. What the Arab world witnessed was a series of uprisings, no more. I know many democracy hopefuls will probably not accept my opinion, but the truth of the matter is that we have to be realistic and logical and stop living in the dream-world. We are light-years away from democracy in this part of the world for the following reasons:
The majority of the population is illiterate, and there is tremendous work to be done in this area to empower people in the fields of knowledge and skills;
Tribalidentity is still stronger and more powerful in the consciousness of the population and the notion of nation-state is only existent in educational curriculum, if at all;
The Mideast is still too patriarchal to accept the idea of individualism and the freedom of the individual;
Women are still considered “part of the household” and not individuals with similar rights and obligations. Democracy without empowered women is a mere joke;
The Arab people love to talk about pan-Arabism and pan-Arab identity, which is a mere dream that has no real existence and refuse to consider the microcosm of ethnic identities that make up the Mideast;
The Arab world is made of two distinct classes: the very rich people, whose body lives in their country of origin and their mind and heart lives in the West and the very poor, who barely survive from day to day. The middle class, which often acts as a shock-absorber and defends the establishment, existed briefly in the 60s and 70s of the last century but disappeared and became part of the poor after that;
The political system is built around rich reigning families, which do not want to relinquish neither power nor wealth and reject any system of meritocracy or the idea of power-sharing. To keep the system going they encourage co-optation and corruption, which in many countries is the name of the game first and foremost; and
Unequal distribution of national wealth at all levels.
For all these reasons the so-called Arab Spring is a mere mirage. Since the advent of Islam, power passed from one family/dynasty to another. The family/dynasty in power, after years of power, gets too corrupted and, as a result, weakens and another family/dynasty, strong and pure waiting on the sidelines, takes over and rules for a period of time until it gets in its turn too corrupt to fall like a rotten pear. This is the theory of power articulated by Ibn Khaldun in his opus Muqaddimah or Prolegomena written in 1337 in which he argues that:
“each dynasty has within itself the seeds of its own downfall. He explains that ruling houses tend to emerge on the peripheries of great empires and use the unity presented by those areas to their advantage in order to bring about a change in leadership. As the new rulers establish themselves at the center of their empire, they become increasingly lax and more concerned with maintaining their lifestyles. Thus, a new dynasty can emerge at the periphery of their control and effect a change in leadership, beginning the cycle anew.”
When the Arab uprising first ignited in Tunisia and morphed into street anger that soon toppled the Tunisian dictator Ben Ali, the whole world cheered, the Arabs have finally succeeded in breaking down the wall of fear, especially in a country which was highly requited by one of the fiercest political polices in the world.
But then, the Egyptians got the revolution-fever soon and in no time toppled another paper dictator (i.e. Moubarek). At this point the world spoke of Arab Spring, maybe too soon. Then, Yemen fell, followed by Libya, which was as dramatic as its dictator Gaddafi after there was an attempt to topple the first leader of the Gulf States in Bahrain, but the attempt was stifled in its cradle. Last but not least, Syria caught the disease, but death is everywhere in the country and the dictator Assad is still in power, and as deadly as ever, not even shying from using chemical weapons on his own people.
The Arab uprisings were started by the youth, dissatisfied with the tribal and patriarchal rule of corrupt and brutal leaders supported by obedient armies and co-opted political parties. Then as the movement took off, the Islamist movements, as regimented as any movement could ever be, joined the fray along with the socialists and the communists. After the fall of the dictators and the organization of free elections, the Islamists grabbed the power and embarked immediately in islamasizing, at will, their societies in a flagrant manner, as was the case in Egypt. The Islamists also grabbed power, by legal means, in countries non-affected by the uprisings, such as Morocco. But like in Egypt, after a period of time, people started to express dissatisfaction at the Islamists’ running of affairs.
All in all, after three years of uprisings, one wonders, quite rightly, what was achieved in the Arab World? The answer is, not much except for the following things:
The appearance of the Arab cyber-citizen, not only vociferous and ferociously eager to be free in his thinking and acting, but also able and willing to express his anger and dissatisfaction;
The destruction; forever, of the wall of fear that impeded the political development of the Arab man,
The abolition of the state of denial and its corollaries disrespect and humiliation; and
Withdrawal of legitimacy of reign from all existing establishments.
The so-called Arab Spring is definitely going to the dogs and the Arab World is unfortunately moving steadily towards an era of probably total chaos. One wonders, however, is this the beginning of creative chaos that will lead to better times for the region and its people, or the beginning of something else difficult to guess and really bad?
Only time will show.
Dr. Mohamed Chtatou is a Professor at the University of Mohammed V in Rabat.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Morocco World News’ editorial policy
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